OKINAWA: Australia beat Japan to battle into the next round of the Basketball World Cup on Tuesday, while Germany, the Dominican Republic, Lithuania and Canada all advanced with perfect records. Italy, Montenegro and Latvia joined them in the next phase, while France salvaged a measure of pride after their shock early exit with a hard-fought win over Lebanon. Australia needed to beat Japan after their narrow loss to Germany on Sunday and they rose to the occasion against the tournament cohosts in Okinawa, winning 109-89.

Head coach Brian Goorjian said the Boomers were “playing for their life”. “I’m happy to move to this next stage with this group because I think we’re getting better as the tournament goes on,” he said. “I know we lost to Germany but I thought it was one of the best games played in this whole tournament. “We went up another level tonight.” Josh Giddey scored 26 points and had 11 assists and five rebounds for Australia in another impressive performance from the 20-year-old. Xavier Cooks scored 24 and had 16 rebounds.

Goorjian said his team were “going through evolution” after winning bronze at the Tokyo Olympics two years ago. “As they get experience in international basketball, we’re going to get better and better,” he said. Germany joined Australia in the next round as Group E winners after a 101-75 thrashing of Finland. A typhoon is forecast to hit Okinawa when they play their next game on Friday but head coach Gordon Herbert was unconcerned. “We heard there might be one 10 days ago, and I guess there’s one coming Friday,” he said. “Hopefully we’re the typhoon on Friday night.”

‘The world is on notice’

In Group A, the Dominican Republic beat Angola 75-67 to advance with three wins out of three. Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns chipped in with two crucial free throws late in the fourth quarter to help seal the win in Manila. The American-born Towns, whose late mother was Dominican, warned the rest of the competition not to underestimate the world’s number 23-ranked team. “We have a special team—everyone counted us out, they didn’t think we could be great,” said the 27-year-old.

“But in practice with one of the best coaches in the world, we believed that we could do something amazing and I think that the world is on notice now.” Italy also advanced from Group A after a 90-83 win over cohosts the Philippines. Canada underlined their credentials as title contenders with their third win, 101-75 over Latvia. Tournament debutants Latvia made a ferocious start but the Canadians gradually reeled them in before half-time and then streched their legs after the interval. Latvia, who lost captain Dairis Bertans for the rest of the tournament through injury before the game, joined Canada in the next round. Both teams had already beaten France to eliminate the Tokyo Olympics silver medallists after only two games.

The French had to dig deep to pull out an 85-79 win over Lebanon in their final group game. Forward Nicolas Batum said it was important “to show our pride tonight”. “Like everyone else, we were disappointed by what happened but we’re a great team whatever happens,” he said. “Unfortunately for some people, we’re not dead. We’re going to pick ourselves up.” Lithuania maintained their perfect record with a 91-71 win over Montenegro to qualify as Group D winners. Montenegro also went through as runners-up. In the day’s other game in Group D, Egypt beat Mexico 100-72 to pick up their first win. – AFP