FIBA World Cup: Tall Blacks rebound with warm-up win over Japan

Guard Ethan Rusbatch scored 16 points for the Tall Blacks.
Guard Ethan Rusbatch scored 16 points for the Tall Blacks. Photo credit: Getty

The Tall Blacks have responded to a disappointing defeat to Japan with a resounding 104-87 win over the same opponents in Kawasaki. 

After a slow start saw them eventually lose 99-89 in Chiba on Monday, New Zealand came out firing, with guard Ethan Rusbatch scoring a team-high 16 points - one of five Tall Blacks players to score in double figures. 

For Japan, Washington Wizards NBA rookie Rui Hachimura posted a game-high 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds in a losing effort. 

Tall Blacks coach Paul Henare was pleased with how his players responded to the earlier defeat. 

"Much happier tonight, not so much the result - that is good, and we needed to leave with a win for the confidence and what that does for our group - but more so for the way we played and the way we imposed our style of game," he said. 

"There were some reactions from the Japanese team that were a good sign for us, the fact they were respecting the way we were playing with pace and trying to push the ball.

"When you shoot the ball at a good clip, you always give yourself a chance, and while we didn't shoot the lights out, we definitely shot at a better clip and it always helps when you can keep that scoreboard pressure on."

The Tall Blacks got off to a great start, draining 29 first-quarter points, before picking up the pace even more to close out the half 61-42.

Japan threatened a comeback in the second half, but each time they made a run, the Tall Blacks answered to extend the lead in the closing moments.

Along with Rusbatch, Isaac Fotu (15 points) Corey Webster (14), Rob Loe (13) Tom Abercrombie (12) also scored in double figures. 

The New Zealanders now head to Sydney for two games against Canada next week, before heading to China for the World Cup.

Canada will be tough opponents before the World Cup. Coached by Toronto Raptors boss Nick Nurse, they feature a host of NBA players, headlined by guard Corey Joseph.

The Tall Blacks then open their World Cup campaign against Brazil on September 1.


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