Chinese Taipei rolled back Japan, 79-76, yesterday and moved within a win of topping Group E and clinching a light assignment in the knockout quarterfinals of the 27th Fiba Asia championship at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.
Lin Chih-chieh and Tseng Wen-ting, who hit the biggest shots when the Taiwanese handed Gilas Pilipinas an ego-deflating loss Saturday, reprised their roles against the Japanese, who came into the game still smarting from the whipping the Filipinos dealt them Monday night.
The 6-foot-8, pony-tailed Tseng duplicated his desperation three-pointer against the Filipinos, this one from dead-center of the keyhole to beat the 24-second shotclock and give the Taiwanese a 74-69 lead, with 3:19 left.
Then Lin, a 6-foot-2 shooting guard, completed a three-point play off Ryota Sakurai that made it 77-73 with 44 ticks to go that eventually ushered the Taiwanese to their second straight win in the second round for a 4-0 mark overall.
As things stand in the other group, Iran, the 2007 and 2009 champion, is also undefeated and has basically been conceded No. 1 seeding. South Korea and Kazakhstan break their second-place tie in last night’s 10:30 p.m. game with the Koreans heavily favored to prevail and improve to 3-1.
China is expected to breeze past its last two foes, India and Bahrain, to wind up with a 3-2 record and tie the Kazakhs for No. 3. But the Chinese will be ranked third because of a 73-67 win over the Kazakhs on Monday.
Only Qatar stands in the way of a Taiwanese sweep of the preliminaries, with that match set for today. Victory for the Taiwanese would land them the No. 1 seeding, especially if the Filipinos hurdle the Qataris at presstime.
Should Taipei nail No. 1, it would battle Kazakhstan in the quarterfinals and leave the Philippines—should the Filipinos finish second in its group—fighting with all its marbles against China and the well-rested Yi Jianlian.
“It was close; we chased them the whole game,” Kosuke Takeuchi told reporters through an interpreter after the Japanese dropped to 1-3 overall.
Japan and Jordan will dispute No. 4 seeding in the group, also today at 10:30 a.m.
“We didn’t have enough,” added Takeuchi, for several years the face of Japanese basketball. “We played team defense but we simply failed to stop them.”
Tseng also drilled two free throws off the fourth foul of JR Sakuragi that made it 79-73, with just over 25 seconds remaining.
“We knew that Japan was going to be tough,” Tseng said through an interpreter. “We have a lot to work on in our next games. The coaching staff has been preparing us well and we have made good use of that on the court.”
Tseng finished with 19 points and Lin 16 in a game where the Taiwanese hit their fewest three-point shot total—six. Taipei drilled 15-of-30 against the Filipinos in an 84-79, come-from-behind victory on Saturday.
“Lin and Tseng just gave Japan trouble,” Taiwanese coach Hsu Chin-che said in halting English. “They (Japanese) played good defense.”
TAIPEI 79—Tseng 19, Lin 16, Tien 10, Chen 10, Davis III 8, Tsai 7, Lu 6, Yang 3, Lee 0, Hung 0, Chou 0, Creighton 0.
JAPAN 76—Takeuchi 17, Kanamaru 14, Sakurai 13, Sakuragi 10, Tanaka 8, Tsuji 6, Kurihara 5, Ota 2, Ichioka 1, Hiejima 0.
Quarters: 22-25, 44-41, 61-59, 79-76