Game Preview: Tall Ferns vs Japan, FIBA Women’s Asia Cup Semi-final

The Tall Ferns head into today’s game in unfamiliar territory; playing in their first ever FIBA Women’s Asia Cup semi-final when they face defending champs Japan.

Japan have won the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup the past five times, dating all the way back to 2013. To understand just how dominant this team has been in the Asia Cup over recent times, Japan is currently riding a 16-game unbeaten streak across four editions of the tournament; their last loss coming against Australia in the group phase of the 2017 Asia Cup.

Japan come into tonight’s game as the highest-scoring team in the 2023 Asia Cup at 93.3ppg, also first in three-point percentage at 43.1%. They are led by the duo of point guard Mai Yamatomo (14.3ppg and 4.3apg), alongside Himawari Akaho who averages 11.7ppg, 6rpg and a tournament-best 2.3 blocks per game.

Despite Japan’s dominance, New Zealand will come into this game with a high level of confidence of their own. Fielding two of the Asia Cup’s most dominant weapons in Charlisse Leger-Walker (19.5ppg, second-best in the tournament) and Penina Davidson (15.7ppg and a tournament-best 11.3rpg), New Zealand are well-equipped to handle Japan’s speed and discipline, and will be pumped by their hard-fought win over Philippines on Friday.

Tera Reed and Tahlia Tupaea are the two other big x-factors for the Kiwis; Reed averaging 11ppg and 6.8rpg, with her speed and penetrating ability (23 points) a big reason for the Tall Fern’s win over the Philippines. And Tupaea’s all-around abilities have been a revelation for the Kiwis since her team debut, as evidenced by her 20-point outburst versus Lebanon (on 6-9 shooting from outside) and her 5 point, 5 rebound, 5 assist and 3 steal outing against the Philippines.

The Tall Blacks have only encountered Japan once before in the Asia Cup; a 50-62 loss in the 2021 edition which saw the Kiwis out-shoot their opponents from the field (39% vs 34%) and out-rebound them (42 vs 33) – but Japan superior from long distance with 10 made threes at a 31% clip. Both Leger-Walker sisters and Davidson appeared in that game for New Zealand, combining for 19 points.

The Tall Ferns play Japan from 7pm NZT on Saturday 1 July, in their first FIBA Women’s Asia Cup semi-finals game. Watch this game live – and free – on TVNZ+, or follow the game here.


FIBA Women’s Asia Cup 2023 – Tall Ferns Schedule:

Mon 26 June – Tall Ferns vs Korea, 1pm NZT (won 66-64)

Tue 27 June – Tall Ferns vs China, 7pm NZT (lost 46-80)

Wed 28 June – Tall Ferns vs Lebanon, 1pm NZT (won 76-45)

Friday 30 June – Tall Ferns vs Philippines, 7pm NZT (won 83-78)


Tall Ferns Squad – FIBA Women’s Asia Cup 2023:

Stella Beck, 60 caps

Tayla Dalton, 9 caps

Penina Davidson, 60 caps

Grace Hunter, 7 caps

Charlisse Leger-Walker, 40 caps

Krystal Leger-Walker, 27 caps

Parris Mason, 2 caps

Esra McGoldrick, 10 caps

Tera Reed, 15 caps

Ritorya Tamilo, 7 caps

Josie Trousdell, 39 caps

Tahlia Tupaea, 3 caps