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BASKETBALL | Japan Cruises Past Kazakhstan in Teams’ FIBA Asia Cup Opener

The Akatsuki Five outscored their Group C opponent 55-20 in the second half, turning a close game into a rout.

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Japan forward Yuta Watanabe shoots against Kazakhstan in a FIBA Asia Cup Group C game on July 13 in Jakarta. (FIBA.BASKETBALL)

Yuta Watanabe scored a game-high 21 points and Keisei Tominaga made a big impact with 13 third-quarter points, helping set the tone for Japan in its FIBA Asia Cup opener on Wednesday, July 13.

The Akatsuki Five trailed 48-45 at halftime, then overwhelmed Group C opponent Kazakhstan over the final 20 minutes en route to a 100-68 victory in Jakarta.

“I was very happy with our effort throughout the game,” Japan coach Tom Hovasse said, “but in the second half our defensive effort and energy, I think, went to another level. And that’s what we need to do moving forward.”

In addition to his 21 points and 8-for-15 shooting from the floor, NBA veteran Watanabe, a restricted free agent, had eight rebounds, four assists and three blocks while playing a team-high 29-plus minutes. It was Watanabe’s first game for the national team since last summer’s Tokyo Olympics.

Japan big man Luke Evans, an inside anchor for the B.League’s Fighting Eagles Nagoya, added 17 points and nine rebounds. Yudai Nishida contributed 16 points, including 4-for-5 on 3-point attempts. Other key contributions came from backups Yutaro Suda (nine points) and Yuki Kawamura (eight points and a game-high eight assists) and starting point guard Yuki Togashi (six points and five assists).

Read the full story here, on JAPAN Forward's dedicated sports website, SportsLook.

Author: Ed Odeven

Follow Ed on JAPAN Forward's [Japan Sports Notebook] here on Sundays, in [Odds and Evens] here during the week, and Twitter @ed_odeven, and find him on JAPAN Forward’s dedicated sports website, SportsLook.