ZHOU Qi led China to a dominant 79-63 trumping of Japan in the 2023 Fiba World Cup Asian qualifiers on Saturday at Xebio Arena in Sendai.
The South East Melbourne Phoenix center fired eight of his 24 points in the first quarter to ignite Team Dragon's early 19-2 assault to set the tone for the wire-to-wire win.
Zhou also grabbed 12 rebounds and three blocks, but had to exit at the 5:46 mark of the third quarter after spraining his right ankle.
Guo Ailun also weaved his magic with 24 points built on four threes, while making four rebounds, his triple at the 9:02 mark of the fourth period stretching the lead to its highest at 30 points, 70-40.
Zhou Qi and the Chinese squad are off to a strong start.
Hu Jinqiu also did his share with 15 points, six rebounds, and five assists, while Zhao Rui had 10 points, six boards, five dimes, and three steals as China took the early lead in Group B of the qualifiers.
Yudai Nishida paced Japan with 11 points on 3-of-7 shooting from deep, to go with three assists, as Luke Evans had an underwhelming debut as the naturalized player for the Akatsuki Five as he only had 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting from the field, on top of his eight rebounds in the defeat.
The two teams will meet anew on Sunday.
Japan can make changes to its 12-man roster for that second game against China, keeping hopes up for Matthew Aquino to play his first game for the Akatsuki Five.
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