Boxscores | Photo gallery ¦ Exclusive video interview with Joseph Vogel
TOKUSHIMA (FIBA Asia Championship) - Hosts Japan gave the Sunday holiday crowd at the Asty Stadium a lot to cheer about, with a resurgent 77-67 win against last edition's runners-up Lebanon, in Group 'C'.
In an encounter where fortunes swung like the pendulum, Japan took control of the proceedings midway through the final quarter (which they won 25-7) to negate all the edge Lebanon had gained earlier and surged ahead.
Lebanon, who had gone into the final quarter 60-52 ahead, simply squandered the advantage and played into the trap laid out by the speedy and skillful Japanese. Joseph Vogel was his usual solid self - achieving a game top score 19 points along with six rebounds - but in the rampage caused by the collective Japanese effort, the tall center's efforts stood solitary.
Playmaker Fadi El Khatib committed too many fouls too early and thus never looked his usual fluent self. Having been replaced - after accumulating four fouls in just the opening minutes of the second quarter - Fadi did come back during the fourth quarter, but struggled to cope with his rhythm.
"I thought we were a little too nervous in the last 10 minutes," commented Lebanon coach Dragan Raca. "But I'm rather satisfied. Because a defeat this early in the tournament gives us a lot of chances for introspection."
Japanese coach Kimikazu Suzuki attributed the success to the calm and composed handling of the fourth quarter of his players.
"We knew it would be a very fast paced encounter, which it turned out to be. Therefore I had instructed the boys to be patient and wait for them to make some mistakes. Luckily for us, it clicked.
"Winning against such a tough combination has definitely boosted our confidence," he said.
Japan 77 (Kosuke Takeuchi 15, Takuya Kawamura 13) bt Lebanon 67 (Joseph Vogel 19, Fadi El Khatib 14). Quarterwise: 16-21, 32-39, 52-60.