Tall Ferns go down to Japan to fall to 0-2 at Fiba Asia Cup
The Tall Ferns came out swinging, but could not sustain their charge as they fell to a 62-50 defeat to Olympic silver medallists Japan on the second day of the Fiba Asia Cup in Amman, Jordan.
Guy Molloy's New Zealand women's side slumped to 0-2 in Group A at the eight-team tournament that will decide the four teams from the region to proceed to the next stage of World Cup qualifying early next year. They were beaten 85-69 by Korea on Monday.
The Ferns now find themselves in a tight spot. They should keep their hopes alive with a victory over India on the final day of pool play, but then face a demanding qualification game against either China or Australia to advance to the semifinals
The New Zealanders started brilliantly against the slick Japan side who had opened the tournament with a 136-49 victory over India, leading by as many as 9 points in the opening quarter, and 20-13 at the first break.
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But Japan, ranked No 8 in the world, put the squeeze on in the second period, limiting the New Zealanders to just 11 points as they took a 32-31 advantage into the major break.
From there the turnovers continued to mount for the Ferns and the lead for Japan with it, never mind that the New Zealanders were playing some inspired defence against their explosive scoring opponents.
Japan plugged away to grow their lead to five (47-42) at the three-quarter mark, and soon had the margin out to double-figures early in the final stanza as the Ferns’ errors continued to come. The Kiwis got within seven late in the piece but could not sustain their charge.
Krystal Leger-Walker (9 points on 4-of-9 shooting) and Tessa Boagni (9 points, 5 rebounds) paced the New Zealanders in scoring, with Kalani Purcell chipping in with 7 points and 4 boards.
But the aggressive Japan defence put the clamps on New Zealand’s young star Charlisse Leger-Walker who was held to just 4 points on 1-of-6 shooting, to go with 5 rebounds, 5 dimes and 4 turnovers.
The Ferns shot 39 percent from the floor, but made just 4 of 19 triples, while Japan made just 22 of 64 field goal attempts, but went 10 of 32 from deep.
The Kiwis won the battle on the boards (42-33) but paid the price for 23 turnovers and were shaded 19-8 on points off giveaways and 13-0 on fast-break points.
New Zealand wrap up Group A against India on Wednesday night.
Fiba Asia Cup, Jordan: Japan 62 (Stephanie Mawuli 15, Saki Hayashi 12, Monica Okeye 10), New Zealand 50 (Krystal Leger-Walker 9, Tessa Boagni 9, Kalani Purcell 7). 1Q: 13-20; HT: 32-31; 3Q: 47-42.