Suns’ Yuta Watanabe drops 24 in Japan’s FIBA loss to Australia

Aug 29, 2023, 8:42 AM

Yuta Watanabe squres up Josh Giddey in Japan vs. Australia of FIBA World Cup play...

Yuta Watanabe #12 of Japan drives to the basket against Josh Giddey #3 of Australia during the FIBA Basketball World Cup Group E game between Australia and Japan at Okinawa Arena on August 29, 2023 in Okinawa, Japan. (Photo by Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images)

(Photo by Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images)

Two days after securing the country’s first FIBA win over a European team in FIBA World Cup play, Japan faced the harsh realities of the competition in this year’s tournament.

An Australian team with multiple NBA players on their bench punched the gas pedal enough times to wear down and pull away from a feisty Japanese squad led by former Washington State Cougars center Joshua Hawkinson (33 points) and Phoenix Suns forward Yuta Watanabe (24 points).

The 109-89 loss for Japan knocked them out of second-round world cup play, but the team has two more games on the docket to set themselves up nicely for a chance to appear in the 2024 Olympics.

Defended mostly by starting forward Nick Kay and backup NBA veteran Joe Ingles, Watanabe got his touches in a variety of ways, with eight twos, five threes and nine free throws taken.

He peppered in a 7-for-13 shooting night with seven rebounds.

Watanabe flashed his ability to put together quick bursts of combination moves to free up his quick-release jumper, including a low-post mismatch against guard Patty Mills for an and-one.

Watanabe did a lot of attacking, including getting a floating lefty shot off the glass over shotblocker Duop Reath off the dribble.

He went 7-of-9 from the foul stripe with his aggressiveness and went 3-of-5 from beyond the arc, doing his usual damage from the corners and beyond.

The de facto power forward even had a few play initiation possessions as the Australians pressured the Japanese backcourt with Dallas Mavericks guard and Arizona Wildcat product Josh Green applying pressure.

Japan has scheduled games on Thursday and Saturday with to-be-determined opponents.


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