Japan’s dreams of advancing to the second round of the FIBA Basketball World Cup were crushed after a 109-89 loss to Australia. Despite great performances from key players such as Yuta Watanabe and Joshua Hawkinson, Japan was unable to match Australia’s tremendous inside presence and unrelenting defence. The loss leaves Japan with a 1-2 record in Group E, while Australia advances to the 16-team second stage.
The Game’s Turning Points
Australia’s Olympic bronze medal-winning team showcased their prowess right from the start, leading 25-17 after the first period and extending the lead to 57-35 at halftime. Japan’s defence struggled to contain Australia’s rebounding, particularly Xavier Cooks, who contributed 24 points and 16 rebounds. Oklahoma City Thunder guard Josh Giddey led Australia with 26 points and 11 assists.
Joshua Hawkinson was a bright spot for Japan, scoring 33 points and pulling down seven rebounds. Yuta Watanabe, the Phoenix Suns forward, added 24 points and seven rebounds. Watanabe’s performance was particularly noteworthy as he managed to score in a variety of ways, including eight twos, five threes, and nine free throws.
The Rebounding Battle
The failure of Japan to control the boards was a major factor in their defeat. Australia held a 44-33 rebounding advantage, with Cooks producing second-chance points off the offensive boards. “We were trying to limit them and do our best to protect the paint, but when we moved across to the weak side, there’s nobody on the opposite side to box out,” Hawkinson explained.
Yuta Watanabe stressed the importance of putting in a full 40-minute effort, claiming that Japan was outworked in the first half. “We did what we were meant to do in the second half…I’m quite proud of our efforts, but we still have 40 minutes to go. “Twenty minutes is insufficient,” he remarked.
What’s Next for Japan?
Despite the defeat, Japan still has a chance to qualify for the 2024 Olympics in Paris. They will play further classification games in Okinawa with the goal of finishing as the tournament’s best Asian team. Head coach Tom Hovasse is upbeat, adding that the club is on the right track and that they must “keep working, keep grinding.”
Japan’s setback to Australia acts as a wake-up call, but it also teaches the team crucial lessons. They will work on fixing their deficiencies and building on their strengths as they prepare for their forthcoming classification games.