Quarter Final Preview: Australian Gems v Japan
The Australian Gems take on Japan at 6:30am AEST Saturday morning, in the Quarter Finals of the 2011 FIBA Women's World Championship. As well as following the FIBA LIVE STATS, you can also listen in to a LIVE-streamed radio call of the game.
Australia versus Japan – Tall Meets Small in the Quarter Finals
It is almost a case of 'David and Goliath' in the second Quarter-Final of the FIBA U19 World Championship for Women in Puerto Montt, Chile.
In the role of Goliath stands Australia, the tallest team in the tournament who dominate teams with their size, blocking 2.4 shots per game and ranking second in rebounding with 46 per game.
Standing in as David is Japan, the shortest team in Chile with an average height of just 172cm, 13cm shorter than the Aussies. As a weapon Japan do not throw stones however, they throw impressively accurate three-pointers.
The Asian silver medallists lead the tournament with 37% accuracy from long range, in stark contrast to the Australians, who rank 11th with a lowly conversion rate of 25.5%. Japan, however, cannot hope to match their opponents in the paint - they recover just 33.5 rebounds each game and block less than one shot.
Reflecting on her team's loss to the bigger Canada, Sanae Motokawa said Japan needed to make some adjustments. "We have to move more against the bigger players to make them work a lot harder," she said. "Run and play fast, the way we want to play."
Coach Eiki Umezaki said the most important thing is for his player's to rest so they can execute their energetic game plan to the fullest against Australia. ""My players are very, very tired. Tomorrow training will be just shooting, nothing else," he said.
One player in particular will be very important for each team in combating the strengths of the others.
Australian guard Rebecca Cole is not a fashionable basketballer, but she is one of her team's most effective. Her role in pressuring the ball and slowing Japan's transition opportunities, often sparked by livewire point guard Rui Machida, will be crucial in allowing her bigger teammates more time to retreat defensively.
On offence Cole is the one who feeds the enormous Australian front line, leading the tournament with 6.8 assists per game. However, Cole commits more turnovers (3.4) than any other Australian player, and the Gems commit the second most turnovers in the tournament with over 20 per game.
Japan in contrast commits just 12, ranking them number one in looking after the basketball. Should such a disparity in turnovers occur on Friday Japan would be favourites to prevail with their transition game in full flight.
While shooters Machida, Motokawa and Shiori Takada are big time players, the key for Japan is centre Aoi Katsura, who holds down the middle despite being grossly undersized.
Continually in this tournament she has matched her bigger opponents to help Japan counter their height deficiency defensively, and exploit speed mismatches on offence to the tune of 9.7 ppg.
Australia coach Cheryl Chambers knows what to expect from the Japanese. "They're free flowing and they shoot lots of threes," she said. "They can penetrate and dish on a dime. They're going to test our ability to execute."
Does she go with a small line-up or a big one? "I think a bit of both. We played the Japanese (senior) national team before we left (Australia) and had some success against them. We tried a few different things and they were close games, so hopefully we know how to play them."
And her plan for Friday is simple. "Just get a win, get to the top four!"
Courtesy of FIBA.com
You can also listen in to a LIVE-streamed audio commentary of the match by following this link.