Akatsuki Five beat Gilas for first time in Asia Cup since 2003 to join Quarter-Finals along with Tall Blacks

JAKARTA (Indonesia) – New Zealand return to FIBA Asia Cup Quarter-Finals with big win over Syria, while Japan break a lengthy losing streak to the Philippines.

New Zealand got off to a quick start and continued to build up their lead up until the 97-58 win.

The Tall Blacks went up ahead 12-0 and held Syria scoreless for almost the first five minutes of the game. They cruised along the rest of the way from there.

Young point guard Flynn Cameron continues to impress for New Zealand, with another all-around performance of 14 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 rebounds. New Zealand’s guards were active in this game as Taylor Britt also added 10 points and 6 assists on perfect shooting, while Taine Murray led the team with 16 points.

Omar Idelbi and Anthouny Bakar led Syria in scoring for Syria with 10 points each as the team bows out of the competition.

New Zealand now advance to the Quarter-Finals to play against Korea, setting up a rematch between the two teams who had faced twice in Asia Cup 2017 including the Third-Place Game 0 in which Korea won both matchups.

Japan responded well to a physical game to beat the Philippines, 102-81.

The Akatsuki Five set the tone early, breaking away to a 32-16 first quarter which was enough to keep Gilas from gaining momentum as they tried to reclaim the lead.

Yuta Watanabe starred in the early stages, making things happen on both sides of the floor. However, he’d have to leave the court in the second half with what appeared like an ankle injury, finishing the game with 15 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 assists.

As the Philippines attempted a comeback rally, Japan other stars responded to the call and stepped up to the challenge. Yuki Togashi lead the team in scoring with 18 points to go with 6 assists, while Luke Evans added 17 points and 7 rebounds. Sharpshooters Yudai Nishida and Yutaroh Suda also combined for 29 points as well.

The Philippines had to rely on the performance of their veterans in this game, allowing ay Parks (16 points) and Kiefer Ravena (15 points) as the team’s leading scorers.

Japan make a return to the Quarter-Finals for the first time since Asia Cup 2015 and will be facing Australia. The two teams faced off in Asia Cup 2017 as well as in the World Cup 2019 and 2023 Qualifiers.

Turning Points

Japan were able to win this game, so while Yuta Watanabe’s injury might not be the turning point of this particular game, it could be a turning point for Japan in Asia Cup 2022. It does not have to be a negative turning point, as it could result in the other players rallying and stepping up their game… as they did in this win.

Game Heroes

Luke Evans stepped up in what might have been his mot important performance so far as a member of the Akatsuki Five. The numbers might not be explosive, but it was Evan’s aggressiveness and willingness to be physical that matched the intensity level of the Philippines that allowed Japan to maintain their lead with Watanabe on the bench.

Stats don’t lie

The Tall Blacks made sure to get everyone involved, highlighted by their 55 bench points – more than half of the entire team’s total. Five players scored in double-digits and every player scored at least 3 points.

The Philippines have been one of the better teams at handling the ball in the competition, but left the game against Japan with 17 turnovers. Moreever, these turnovers were converted into 23 important points for Japan.

They said:

“When Yuta Watanabe left with an injury, I felt like we really came together and played really physical and strong basketball… I think we really stepped forward today as a team.” – Coach Tom Hovasse, Japan Head Coach