Japan, China maintain dominance on familiar foes for perfect window

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ASTANA (Kazakhstan) & MANAMA (Bahrain) – Japan and China maintain winning streaks over familiar foes Kazakhstan and Bahrain, respectively to wrap up Window 5 action.

Japan started the day off by securing another big win against Kazakhstan, 81-61, making it three straight victories for Akatsuki Japan.

The win also keeps Japan undefeated against the Steppen Wolves with 5 consecutive wins across two Asian Qualifiers as well as the FIBA Asia Cup earlier this year.

After a back and forth first quarter which ended up 16-14, Japan started to break away. In the second quarter alone, they collected 6 of their 12 steals to open up and 18-point lead.

The cushion grew to as much as 31 points and even though Bahrain were able to cut it down a bit, it was too big of a hole to climb out of.

Japan had four double-digit scorers in this game led by Hirotaka Yoshii who had 15 points on 60 percent shooting.

It was another tough loss for Kazakhstan who are seeing their hopes of qualification drift away. In this game, team veteran Rustam Murzagaliev led the way with 14 points.

Both teams now have identical 5-5 records in Group F, though Japan are the only team with confirmed qualification to the World Cup as co-hosts.

China had an Asia Cup deja vu as they were force to an overtime session against Bahrain before claiming the win 80-67.

The game was tighter than some might have expected, but the result might not surprise Asia Cup fans who had witnessed the underdogs Bahrain taking China down to the final seconds.

Bahrain were buoyed by a heroic performance from Maitham Isa who rained in 11 of his 16 points in the second quarter. It was also an admirable performance all-around from Wayne Chism, who did all the dirty work on offense and defense for Bahrain especially in the clutch.

China extended their lead to double-digits as much as 11 points for only a few moments before Bahrain chipped the deficit down in the final minutes of regulation to tie the game.

Unfortunately for the upset mined Bahrain, China went on to dominate the overtime period 16-3 on their way to the win.

Wang Zhelin had another monsterous game with 27 points and 14 rebounds for the victors while Zhou Peng and Zhao Rui pitched in a combined 23 points, most in the clutch.

For Bahrain, it was quite a show from Wayne Chism who had 23 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 2 steals including a bank shot three-pointer to tie the game at 64-64.

This is China’s third win over Bahrain in the span of just less than 4 months, and gives the Asian powerhouse an 8-2 record in the Qualifiers. Meanwhile, Bahrain drop to 2-8 and are virtually out of contention for World Cup qualification.

Turning points: During the second quarter run for Japan, Yuki Kawamura snuck up to steal a pass right off the inbound before dancing around with the defense and kicking the ball out to Tenketsu Harimoto for a three-pointer who also drew a foul and completed the four-point play.

Sublime sequence.

For the game between China and Bahrain that went into overtime, there were plenty of turning points. The final one that drove the nail in Bahrain’s coffin was Zhao Rui’s powerful possession with just under 2 minutes left in overtime where he grabbed the offensive rebound and quickly put the ball back in the hoop.

Game heroes: Speaking of Kawamura, he set the tone in today’s game for Japan, at the very least on the defensive end which is something coach Tom Hovasse has continuously praised. He had another solid game of 13 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 steals in the win.

China were without Zhou Qi for a second straight game and for a second straight game, Wang Zhelin stepped up in that absence. Another big-time double-double with important plays on both sides of the floor, Du Feng might now have the envious problem of how to play the two centers to maximize their talents.

Stats don’t lie: Japan are not the biggest team, but they sure do space themselves well and make efficient cuts towards the basket. That’s why they were able to score 18-27 two-point field-goals accounting for 66.7 percent against Kazakhstan and a key factor towards their win.

China obviously had the physical advantage and even though Bahrain made it a fight, the size of China is just so hard to deny. In particular, that advantage is useful on the glass where China grabbed 14 offensive rebounds and converted into 22 second chance points.

FIBA