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Japan regain bearings with victory over Qatar
TEHRAN (FIBA Asia Challenge 2016) – Japan regained their bearings and formally secured their place in the Quarter-Finals of the FIBA Asia Challenge 2016 in Tehran, Iran after defeating Qatar, 79-65, at the close of group play.
Japan enjoyed a healthy start in the game, leading, 20-12, after the first quarter, and they extended this to a 16-point lead at the half. Coach Kenji Hasegawa’s wards went on cruise control the rest of the way to secure their third win against two losses. This propelled them past Iraq for third place in Group F and effectively eliminated Qatar.
Turning Point: Japan had firm control of the ballgame till the middle of the fourth period, where Qatar were able to trim the deficit to just a solitary point, 64-63, with under five minutes left. Japan, however, would end the game strong, going on a 15-2 finishing kick to allay any fears of an upset and preserve the win.
Stats Don't Lie: Qatar did a good job forcing turnovers in this game, but this was offset by their bad shooting. Coach Vasileois Fragkias’s team made just 38.7% of their shots, and that wasn’t nearly good enough for them to overcome their slow start. In contrast, Japan shot 62% from the field and won the rebounding battle, 33-26.
Game Hero: Ryusei Shinoyama has been one of Japan’s breakout performers this tournament, and this game was his finest moment. The 28-year-old point guard hit all but one of his eight field goals en route to scoring 16 points. He also tallied 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal for the Akatsuki Five. Shinoyama has seemingly supplanted Naoto Tsuji as this team’s starting playmaker, and he did not disappoint in this game.
The Bottom Line: Japan struggled big time against Iran on Day 5, but this was a good way to recover from that and get their bearings back right in time for the Quarter-Finals, where they are set to face a very dangerous Jordan quintet. Qatar, meanwhile, have formally been knocked off from contention. It’s back to the drawing board for Al Annabi, though they can take some consolation in the fact that they are the very first team to qualify for the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup after winning the GCC tournament earlier this year.