JAPAN caught a big fish and dealt Australia its first defeat with a 79-78 stunner on Friday in the 2019 Fiba World Cup Asian qualifiers at Chiba Port Arena.
Naturalized player Nick Fazekas was a game changer for the Akatsuki Five, scoring 25 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in his first game for the national team after replacing Ira Brown.
Rui Hachimura also lit up for 24 points on a 10-of-18 shooting from the field, on top of seven rebounds, Yudai Baba added eight points, and Makoto Hiejima got six points, eight boards, and six assists to keep Japan’s second round hopes alive.
On-fire from the get-go, the Japanese held a 12-point edge in the second quarter, 40-28, and staved off the Aussies’ late barrage, with Hachimura’s dunk in the final 12 ticks of the game proving to be the dagger to take the 79-74 triumph.
The victory gave Japan its breakthrough in the first round to rise up to a 1-4 record in Group B, while also setting up the duel against Chinese Taipei (1-4) on Monday as a knockout game.
Also, that made the Monday tiff between the Philippines and Australia, both of which carrying identical 4-1 cards, at Philippine Arena as a battle for the top seed in the group.
Chris Goulding paced the Aussies with 22 points, four rebounds, and three assists.
The loss also spoiled Milwaukee Bucks center Thon Maker’s 13-point and 12-rebound night, while teammate Matthew Dellavedova struggled with his 2-of-11 shooting clip and settled for only four points and eight assists.
JAPAN 79 — Fazekas 25, Hachimura 24, Baba 8, Hiejima 6, Takeuchi 6, Tanaka 4, Shinoyama 4, Tsuji 2, Togashi 0.
AUSTRALIA 78 — Goulding 22, Maker 13, Kay 12, Kickert 10, McCarron 7, Cadee 4, Dellavedova 4, Gliddon 3, Brandt 2, Sobey 1, Lisch 0.
Quarters: 23-16, 42-33, 64-58, 79-78.