Japan’s women’s basketball team successfully punched its ticket to the knockout stage Monday, posting a convincing 102-83 win over Nigeria in their final Group B game at Saitama Super Arena.
The Akatsuki Five will now advance to the quarterfinals for the second consecutive Summer Olympics.
Three days after it suffered an 86-69 loss to the U.S., Japan put on an offensive show against Nigeria, draining 19 3-pointers and posting its second victory of the Games.
Shooting guard Saki Hayashi’s long-ball shooting was red hot in the first half, when she hit six 3-pointers to set the pace for world No. 10 Japan, while forward Yuki Miyazawa also knocked down five shots from behind the arc.
Hayashi and Miyazawa finished the game as the two leading scorers, posting 23 and 19 points, respectively.
All of Japan’s players except starting point guard Rui Machida scored. Machida, instead, chipped in with 15 assists — matching the single-game Olympic record.
“We needed a game like this,” Japan head coach Tom Hovasse said.
“Once you start getting your 3s, things start opening up and you can start attacking the hoop,” he added. “We caught a good rhythm and this is the kind of basketball we like to play. Moving forward, this will help us with confidence in what we are doing.”
Hovasse also said that he apologized to Machida for not playing her a little longer so she could have had a shot at breaking the assist record.
“I had no idea she had tied the Olympic record,” he said. “She only played 20 minutes, so I was shocked. But when you make that many 3s at such a high percentage and all the passes were coming from her, something should have clicked in my brain, but it didn’t.”
For world No. 17 Nigeria, which finished the group phase with a 0-3 record, Victoria Macaulay led the way with 18 points.
“They have a bunch of shooters that we were not able to stop,” Macauley said of Japan’s 3-point shooting. “We could have done a better job on guarding them.”
The hosts will be looking to win their first-ever Olympic medal in women’s hoops. Japan has never made it past the quarterfinals, with its best finish coming at the 1976 Games in Montreal, where they ended up fifth. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, the team was trounced by the United States 110-64 in the quarterfinals.
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