Falling victim to a horrendous first half, Taiwan dropped a 90-78 loss in their opener against Japan at the Ota Gymnasium in Tokyo yesterday afternoon to start the Fourth FIBA Asia Cup Basketball Tournament on a low note.
An inauspicious start marred by four quick fouls on the Taiwanese side helped hosts Japan take a surprise 9-0 lead in the first two minutes of play. Even though Taiwan scored the next five points, with Tien Lei making it to the hoop often to keep the deficit under 10, the hosts enjoyed a 27-14 advantage after the first quarter before upping their lead to 53-34 at the half with naturalized center J.R. Sakuragi (formerly J.R. Henderson of the US) doing most of the damage inside the paint.
Japan shot better than 60 percent from the field in the first half, with Sakuragi connecting from close range and Takatoshi Furukawa firing away from long distance with deadly accuracy.
Trouble continued for Taiwan early in the third quarter, which upped Japan’s margin to as much as 26 points before a pair of three-point plays the old fashioned way by Tseng Wen-ding and Lee Hsueh-lin helped reduce the deficit to 18 by the end of the quarter.
A 10-2 run by Taiwan early in the fourth cut the deficit down to 10, but they could not reduce it any further after Japan countered with the superior low-post play of Sakuragi, which almost guaranteed a score each time he got the ball inside the paint, denying the visitors a chance at a comeback.
“We really didn’t do a good job contesting their outside shots, which made it very easy for them to score,” Tien said after the game.
His point was echoed by skipper Hsu Chin-che, who thought the defense looked a bit “rusty” because of unfamiliarity with the court.
“We should and will get better before our next game,” Hsu said.
Next up for Hsu and his troops will be winless India, who lost to Iran and Qatar in their first two matches, while Japan get a day off before taking on India tomorrow afternoon.
In other FIBA play, it was:
‧ Uzbekistan 81, Macau 61
‧ Qatar 84, India 63
‧ Philippines 78, Lebanon 68