Exhibition: Evans, McLaughlin lead opener as Vikes split opening two with Japan

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Source: Ali Lee, with reports from the Vikes staff in Japan

The University of Victoria Vikes men’s basketball team is two games deep in their four-game tour in Tokyo. The Vikes have the privilege of being a part of the Kanto Collegiate Basketball Federation (KCBBF)’s 90th anniversary celebrations. Former Vikes basketball coach and Athletic Director Ken Shields was the key to getting the invite after coaching several years in Japan.

The Vikes edged Japan 84-80 in the opening match up on Jul. 5, while Japan turned it around to take game two 71-66 on Jul. 6.

The Vikes had two double-digit scorers from both Terrell Evans (27) and Chris McLaughlin (17) in their opener, just 36 hours after landing in Japan. Meanwhile, Japan had four scorers in double digits.

Both teams were tentative through the first quarter, while Japan’s speedy guards gained the home side a 23-21 tilt entering the second. Missed assignments on defence and some quality accuracy kept the ball rolling for Japan, up 46-33 at half.

The half-time break was all the island squad needed as Evans and McLaughlin started to step up the tempo for the Vikes. The ball finally started to drop and the Vikes won the third 24-14 before going on to out-score Japan 27-20 in the final frame. It took all 40 minutes for the Vikes to find their strides but the final 84-80 score line showed the Canadian side’s relentlessness to recover from the early deficit.

In between games the players and staff had time to go exploring, admiring the impressive buffet meals, extravagant train stations, all the perks of their superb hotel and all the flare and excitement in the main plazas nearby.

Game two was broadcast live on National TV and the added digital fans seemed to fuel Japan, while jet lag started to hit a bit harder for the Vikes. Both teams again took a tentative start, while Japan made the most of their opportunities to gain an 11-point lead halfway through the second quarter. Nothing seemed to fall in favour of the Vikes but sticking to their game plan, the Victoria squad clawed their way back to get within five entering half time.

The battle continued throughout the third frame and the Vikes trailed 47-46 to Japan after 30 minutes. In the last quarter, Victoria puled ahead by six points but the Japanese did not disappoint their fans, chipping away to make a comeback of their own. With one minute to go the game was square at 64 but an uncontested three-pointer was the difference for Japan, who went on to secure the win 71-66.

Despite the home team support, there was no shortage of cheering for the Vikes, as several Japanese supporters waited outside Yoyogi National Arena to get photos and autographs with the visitors.

The Vikes have two more games, Jul. 8 and 9, and lots more of Japan to see. So far, reports from the Vikes staff have included the following interesting observations:
•The team was supplied Kirkland brand bottled water despite no Costco in site
•Heated seats on the toilets in the hotel rooms
•Very clean and tidy everywhere you go
•There are 80 lanes of bowling across two floors in the team’s hotel
•Assistant coach Craig Behan has been committed to trying everything (chilled jellyfish appetizer at dinner)
•Everyone must wear a bathing cap in the hotel pool
•American chains spotted in Japan: 7-11, McDonald’s, Starbucks and Denny’s
•Very narrow streets and lots and lots of traffic all the time
•The hotel umbrella racks allow you to lock up your wet umbrella when you arrive

Stay tuned for more updates from the Vikes men’s basketball team’s tour in Japan