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Japan Edges China in a Tense FIBA Asia Cup Qualifier

The win in the opening round of FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers was Japan's first over China in a major men's basketball competition since the 1936 Berlin Olympics.



FIBA Asia Cup
Japan point guard Yuki Kawamura looks to score against China in a 2025 FIBA Asia Cup Group C first-round qualifier on February 25 at Ariake Coliseum in Tokyo. (FIBA.BASKETBALL)

Read the full story on SportsLook - Japan Edges China in a Tense FIBA Asia Cup Qualifier

Qualifying for the 2025 FIBA Asia Cup is the Japan men's basketball national team's next objective. Head coach Tom Hovasse's squad took a big step in that direction with a historic win on Sunday, February 25.

Japan improved to 2-0 in Group C first-round qualifiers with a 76-73 triumph over China at Ariake Coliseum in Tokyo. On Thursday, Japan routed Guam 77-56 at the same venue.

About that historic reference above: This was the Japan men's team's first victory over China in a major continental or global tournament since 1936.

Back in 1936, at the Berlin Summer Olympics, Japan defeated China 35-19 decades before the advent of the 3-point shot. China emerged as Asia's premier powerhouse team in men's basketball, winning 14 of 16 FIBA Asia Cups between 1975 and 2005.

And now? Japan, which qualified to play in the 12-team tournament at the 2024 Paris Olympics, is ranked 26th in the world. China, which did not qualify to compete in the French capital, is 29th.

Akatsuki Japan players react after beating China. (FIBA.BASKETBALL)

On Sunday, the points piled up a lot quicker at Ariake Coliseum than they did in Germany in 1936. Akatsuki Japan, as the men's and women's national hoop teams are known, triumphed in a nailbiter that went down to the wire.


China's Junlong Zhu missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Reaction to Japan's Victory in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifier

"That was a great win for us," Hovasse proclaimed in the postgame news conference. "I told the team after the game this type of win against a really quality team really raises everybody's confidence a little bit. It's a step along the process that we're going through right now, which is Paris, and it's a big step towards our goal."

The coach then said, "I was really glad we could pull it out. It was a tough one." 

FIBA Asia Cup
Japan coach Tom Hovasse guides his team against China. (FIBA.BASKETBALL)

In the teams' most recent matches in a major event, China swept Japan in a pair of 2022 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers, winning 90-84 and 66-57 on June 16 and 19, 2021.

Sunday standout Yudai Baba, who led Japan with 24 points, including 4-for-6 from 3-point range, and played a team-high 37-plus minutes, echoed Hovasse's view. With a smile, he declared that it was a significant triumph for the team.

"It was our first win [against China] after 88 years and as coach said, it was a great win today," said Baba, who also plays for the B.League's Nagasaki Velca

Continue reading the full story on SportsLook.



Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and X (formerly Twitter) @ed_odeven

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