The 64 points is the lowest point total for the Opals all tournament, as they could only manage 25-for-74 (33 percent) shooting from the field, and 7-for-25 (28 percent) from long range.
Jenna O’Hea led scoring for Australia with 12 points, while Bec Allen had 11 and Leilani Mitchell 10.
“Obviously disappointed with the result, you see Japan is a team that has been together much longer than we have. We had a weeks preparation and I think that showed out tonight,” head coach, Sandy Brondello said postgame.
“We’ve got stuff to work on, it’s a little different in style than what we are used to, we haven’t played them for two years so it’s a great game for us [to play] and we now move forward to November.”
The loss drops the Opals record to 3-2 at the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup, and denies them the opportunity of playing in Sunday’s gold medal game. They will instead play the loser of the China-Korea game for the bronze.
The Opals raced out to an 11-2 lead after just three minutes of play, with Allen, O’Hea, and Cayla George nailing long range bombs to give the Australians a dream start, forcing Japan to call time.
It what became an eerily similar tale to the game against China two nights earlier, the chance to regroup seemed to give Japan the jolt they needed, as they began to work their way back into the contest.
After the hot shooting start, the lid well and truly slammed shut on the basket for Brondello’s squad, as they could only muster two baskets in the second quarter, an Ezi Magbegor lay-up and a George three-point make.
The Opals 11-point lead had evaporated entirely by the half, as they went in trailing 35-28, and would ultimately never recover.
“We did start off well, maybe that was a bad thing. We had really good momentum starting off, but basketball is a game of momentum changes. I thought that second quarter, I mean, you can’t score five points and expect to win a game,” Brondello said.
“I just thought our decision making at both ends of the floor was poor and we just took bad shots, and then allowed them to run out and get too many easy baskets which was a little deflating for us.”
The Australians would fight to remain in the game, with five points in 12 seconds to Mitchell closing the gap to four with 5:50 remaining in the third, but in the end, they were up against a Japanese avalanche that refused to let up from beyond the arc.
It was a stunning reversal of form from the Japanese, who missed their first 12 three-point attempts in the game, only to finish 9-for-22 from that point on. Every time the Opals threatened, the opposition would land another blow from range.
Japan would out rebound Australia, 52-45, while also reeling in 16 offensive boards on the night. Those extra possessions proved costly for the Opals, with the Japanese team holding a commanding second chance points advantage of 16-2.
The Opals would also be outscored in the paint, 36-32, as they were unable gain their usual dominance down low. O’Hea revealed that the team spoke postgame about utilising the size advantage they often have over the teams in the Asia Cup to their benefit.
“We need a bigger post presence against smaller teams, and I think being smaller, they were way quicker on their offence and we really struggled to defend them. Then down the offensive end we didn’t get it inside nearly enough,” O’Hea said.
“I don’t really know why that is. It’s something we are going to be looking at so we can have a better post presence in the next game.”
That next game will come on Sunday, with the Opals sixth straight day on court giving them an opportunity to claim a bronze medal before heading home to Australia on Monday.
The Chemist Warehouse Opals will face the loser of the China-Korea game for bronze. Tip-off is at 8:00pm (AEST) Sunday night – Watch live on Fox Sports channel 507 or stream on Kayo.
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