Ethan Rusbatch impresses as Tall Blacks complete bounceback victory over Japan
Ethan Rusbatch surely booked a spot on the plane to China with a standout display in a bounceback victory for the Tall Blacks over Japan in Kawasaki on Wednesday night.
Paul Henare's New Zealand men's team wrapped up the first stage of preparations for the upcoming World Cup in China with a 104-87 victory over Japan in the second of two internationals in three nights between the two.
Japan had outgunned a slow-starting Tall Blacks side 99-89 in Chiba on Monday night.
Rusbatch was one of five New Zealand players to post double-figures in a vastly improved all-round performance in front of an invite-only crowd in Kawasaki as the Tall Blacks got away to a fast start and led all the way.
But it was the Hawke's Bay guard's performance that was the most notable for the New Zealanders as he all but assured himself a spot in Henare's 12 to attend the global event in China.
Rusbatch shapes as a key contributor off the bench with his spot-up ability and decent size for the two guard spot. He had a team-high 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting, including an impressive 3 of 5 from beyond the 3-point arc, and added 5 rebounds.
He is still looking for a pro gig for the upcoming season, and on the strength of this would be a good pickup for someone.
The Tall Blacks shot much better than their rusty first-up performance, knocking down 13 of 37 3-pointers (35 per cent) and going at a decent 49 percent clip overall as they outpaced their hosts throughout. They led by 19 (61-42) at the half, by 14 at the final break and comfortably repelled a late Japanese run that whittled the deficit to eight midway through the final period.
Power forward Isaac Fotu once again impressed for the New Zealanders as he finished with 15 points, on 5-of-8 shooting, to go with 5 boards and 3 assists. Corey Webster found some shooting rhythm to add 14 points (6/12 FG, 2/4 3PT), while Rob Loe also impressed with his 14 points (5/9 FG, 3/7 3PT), 6 rebounds and 2 assists.
Tom Abercrombie chipped in with 12 points (5/8 FG, 2/4 3PT), 3 boards and 4 assists, while Finn Delany added a busy 9 points that included a sweet reverse dunk on Japan's first-round NBA draft pic Rui Hachimura.
Hachimura once again paced Japan with 19 points and 9 rebounds but was contained far better by the Kiwis in this one, while centre Nick Fazekas added 17 points and 5 boards.
The Tall Blacks now head to Sydney where they will meet Canada in twin internationals next week to continue their World Cup buildup.
New Zealand 104 (Ethan Rusbatch 16, Isaac Fotu 15, Corey Webster 14, Rob Loe 13, Tom Abercrombie 12), Japan 87 (Rui Hachimura 19, Nick Fazekas 17, Yudai Baba 12). 1Q: 29-25; HT: 61-42; 3Q: 84-70.