All 12 players on the roster scored at least a point to help Japan post its first victory in the third and final window of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers on Friday.
Two days after the team fell to China in their third-stage opener, Japan cruised past Taiwan 98-61 at Angeles University Foundation Gym in Pampanga, Philippines.
Power forward Gavin Edwards led the Akatsuki Five with 21 points in his second straight start. The naturalized player and member of the 2020-21 B. League champion Chiba Jets Funabashi also had six assists tying for the game-high along with guard Leo Vendrame.
“I wasn’t happy with how I played against China in the first game,” Edwards, who fouled out in Wednesday’s 66-57 loss to China, said after the game Friday. “So I just wanted to come out and just be a little bit more aggressive to start and just overall just trying to have a better game because I felt like I didn’t really play my game and didn’t play up to my expectations and what I think everybody else expects from me.”
After finishing the first half up 52-36, Japan overpowered the opponents at both ends of the floor in the latter half and wound up building the 37-point lead by the end of the contest, which was played behind closed doors due to the pandemic.
Japan was exceptional from behind the 3-point arc, going 17-for-30. Guards Kosuke Kanamaru and Makoto Hiejima knocked down four and three shots from long range, respectively.
Kanamaru, fresh off being named B. League MVP following his campaign with the SeaHorses Mikawa, racked up 15 points while Hiejima, of the Utsunomiya Brex, had 14 points.
Forward Avi Koki Schafer performed well and provided another inside presence beside Edwards, collecting 11 points and 10 rebounds.
The 23-year-old competed for Japan at the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China but has gained confidence since then and feels he is more accountable for the team now.
“I’ve gotten more playing minutes so I feel like I can contribute to the team more,” Schafer said when asked if his role is different now than at the World Cup. “I don’t think my role has been a lot different because my main job is still defense and rebounding. I’ve gotten better in 3-point shooting so I need to move off the ball and take shots when I’m open. That’s one of the things that have changed. But my role has basically been the same.”
Japan had defeated Taiwan 96-57 in Taipei in the first window of the qualifiers in February 2020.
The Tokyo Olympics hosts will wrap up their Asia Cup qualifying with another game against China on Saturday.
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