Japan Falls to Germany in World Cup Basketball Opener

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Yuta Watanabe, left, takes a shot in the third quarter of Friday’s World Cup opener against Germany.

OKINAWA, Okinawa — Japan dropped its FIBA Basketball World Cup opener to Germany 81-63 in Group E action at Okinawa Arena in Okinawa, Okinawa Prefecture, on Friday night.

Japan, ranked 36th in the world, faces Finland on Sunday before a Tuesday matchup against Australia.

The Basketball World Cup — cohosted by Japan, the Philippines and Indonesia — features 32 teams. Japan can qualify for the Paris Olympics if it finishes highest among Asian teams here in the final standings.

The start of Friday’s opener was everything. Japan knew that 11th-ranked Germany, with its physical advantage, was expected to have its way in the paint.

Japan’s game plan was to rely on tenacious defense from Joshua Hawkinson and Yuta Watanabe, who had recently returned from a sprained right ankle, around the basket and use that to center its offense around hitting its 3-pointers.

However, Hawkinson had to head to the bench early on with foul trouble, and that threw the team out of rhythm.

Watanabe couldn’t find the range with his 3-point shooting, and the team found itself down 22 points at the end of the first half.

“I took shots because I was open, and if I had hit them, the game would have been different,” Watanabe said. “This is what happens if you don’t hit shots.”

Japan coach Tom Hovasse said the team wants to play the way it did in the second half from start to finish. If it can do that, the team will win. He also said he believes in the whole team, and that his players have passion.