Thanks to an all-round team effort, Australia fought off a challenge from Japan to earn a 73-59 victory at the 2015 World University Games.
Trailing by 1 at half time, the emerging Boomers outscored Japan 40-24 in the second half to earn a 15 point victory behind a game-high 19 points from Hugh Greenwood on an impressive 8/11 shooting (3/5 3PT). Mitch Creek also had an impact behind 15 points and 5 assists, while Mangok Mathiang compiled his second double-double of the tournament with 11 points and 14 rebounds.
Mathiang, Greenwood and Creek helped Australia to a win against Japan.
Head coach Andrej Lemanis was full of praise for his team in bouncing back after a tough loss to France in their second game.
"It was a good game for us in terms of having to grind one out over the course of 40 minutes," shared Lemanis.
"The Japanese play very aggressive, both defensively and offensively and multiple players can shoot the three ball. So you need to have a slightly different mindset to be successful against them and I think it took us a little while to get into that mindset but I was really pleased with the way we were able to find a way to be effective and eventually wear down Japan."
In a tight first quarter, the UniRoos were able to spread the scoring load evenly as they gained an early ascendancy. Mitch Creek was prominent with 6 points, while Deng Deng's injection into the game saw him quickly pull down 4 rebounds to own the paint to help Australia to a 3 point lead at the first break.'
Japan made a run in the second period to edge ahead by as many as 5 points thanks to their aggressive defense as they forced the emerging Boomers into missed shots. Greenwood's ability to connect on some big shots on his way to 8 points for the quarter helped his side stay in touch despite trailing 33-34 at half time.
Greenwood continued his hot shooting by providing 7 straight Australian points to open the third quarter and wrestle back the lead. Mangok Mathiang's influence began to shine through, while Keanu Pinder and Corey Maynard were also having an impact defensively to help drive the UniRoos to a 5 point lead heading into the final period.
With 7:21 left in the game, Japan edged to within 3 points, however that is as close as they would get. Creek, with help from Mitch McCarron, Mathiang and Greenwood, drove Australia home on an 11-2 run as they prevailed by 15 points.
Defensively, the emerging Boomers smothered Japan in the final quarter, restricting their opponent to just 6 points. While Australia won the rebounding count 55-21, Japan's aggressive defense saw them accumulate 9 steals and keep them within touch throughout
"The French game, we had a bad third quarter so it was good for us to be able to respond to that and come out as a united team," reflected Lemanis.
"What's important is how you play the next game, you can't do anything about what is already done and our destiny is still well and truly in our own hands. It's been a fun and interesting journey. A lot of the guys haven't played together before so finding out how to play together and how to interact as a team has been fun. I think today there was growth in us as a team and tomorrow we hope to get better again."
"It's important in a national team environment when you do play so many games in a short space of time, that everybody can come on and contribute at different times. With the different game styles against different teams, you need different skill sets and it's one of the things we hang our hat on, is being amorphic. It was good tonight that guys who have had limited opportunities up until this point came in and helped us get over the line."
Now boasting a 2-1 win-loss record, the emerging Boomers have no time to rest as they next take on Finland at 5:30pm Wednesday, with their only victory to date a 1 point win over Japan.
4 July, defeated Chinese Taipei 93-47
5 July, lost to France 45-71
7 July, defeated Japan 73-59
8 July, 5:30pm AEST vs Finland
9 July, 1:30pm AEST vs Lithuania
11 July, Quarter Finals
12 July, Semi Finals
13 July, Medals
Official Website (Basketball) - live stats and box scores are available
Eurosport Australia will be broadcasting all the action from the semi finals onwards via Foxtel in Australia.