The Tall Blacks have shaken off the disappointment of falling heartbreakingly short of advancing to the second round of the FIBA World Cup by delivering a 30-point hammering of Japan on Saturday with Corey Webster again starring.
New Zealand went ever so close of advancing to the second round on Thursday evening. They needed to beat Greece to do so and despite the Greeks being a medal fancy and led by NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Tall Blacks gave their all losing a tight contest.
But that didn’t mean their FIBA World Cup was over and looking to finish as high up still as possible, New Zealand delivered a dominant performance after quarter-time to end up beating Japan 111-81.
Corey Webster was again the star for the Tall Blacks. On the back of combining for 57 points the last two games against Greece and Montenegro, the Breakers NBL star shone once more on the world stage.
He produced another 27 points, six assists and five rebounds on supremely efficient shooting of 9/11 from the field, 4/6 from three-point territory and 5/5 from the foul line.
Isaac Fotu proved unstoppable inside for the Japanese too and he delivered 23 points and 10 rebounds for the Tall Blacks.
There were plenty more impressive performers too with Tai Webster finishing with 15 points and nine assists, Rob Loe 12 points and six assists, Tom Abercrombie 10 points and four rebounds, and Shea Ili eight points and three boards.
Japan went through the Group Stage losing to Turkey by 19 points, Czech Republic by 13 points and the USA by 53 points.
It could have been decidedly ugly for them against New Zealand had it not been for the 31 points, nine rebounds and four assists from Nick Fazekas who hit 5/7 from downtown.
Daiki Tanaka added 10 points and five assists for Japan while Yudai Baba added nine points and four rebounds, and Yuta Watanabe nine points and six boards.
New Zealand and Japan were no strangers to one another having already played a couple of exhibition games in the lead up to the World Cup, and as a result they couldn’t be split after an up-tempo first quarter with 58 points between them.
Scores were tied at 29-apiece after one but the Tall Blacks then pulled away opening the second quarter with an 8-0 run punctuated by a Corey Webster jumper.
Webster knocked down a triple soon after a Japanese timeout to make the margin eight before Isaac Fotu stretched the lead out to double-figures. In the end, New Zealand put up 26 points in the second term and gave up just 10 to head into the half-time break leading 55-39.
Third quarters had been a problem for the Tall Blacks, but not this time and by the time Tai Webster hit a pair of free-throws early in the second half, they led by 21.
Japan was threatening a fightback when they got back within 16 after a Makoto Hiejima triple midway through the third quarter but a pair of free-throws and then basket inside from Fotu saw New Zealand’s lead back out to 20.
The Tall Black still by 21 at three quarter-time and then a Rob Loe triple and another inside basket from Fotu made it a 24-point ball game forcing Japan into a timeout.
By the final buzzer, New Zealand’s winning margin was 30 as they now prepare to take on Turkey on Monday night. Japan will plan Montenegro.
FIBA WORLD CUP – CLASSIFICATION ROUND 17-32
NEW ZEALAND 111 (Corey Webster 27, Isaac Fotu 23, Tai Webster 15)
JAPAN 81 (Nick Fazekas 31, Daiki Tanaka 10, Yuta Watanabe 9, Yudai Baba 9)