Japan’s national basketball team lost all five games at the FIBA World Cup held in China and placed 31st out of the 32 teams taking part.

This is the first time for Japan to come up empty in the five World Cup tournaments in which it has taken part, including the World Basketball Championship, predecessor of the World Cup.

The Japan team, 48th in world rankings, was hailed as the strongest ever this year because it sent four players to the National Basketball Association’s summer league.

Still, the team ended the World Cup without achieving its goal of “winning a match for the first time against a European team.”

On Sept. 9, Japan played its final Group O game in Dongguan against Montenegro, which had also lost its previous four games.

But Montenegro was able to seize the advantage from the third quarter, ending in a 80-65 win and putting Japan in 31st place overall. The Philippines was in 32nd place.

Referring to the performance gap between Japan and mid-ranked European teams, Yuta Watanabe, an NBA player for the Memphis Grizzlies who scored 34 points in the final match said, “We were behind in both individual power and having a hungry spirit.”

Reflecting on the team's performance, Watanabe added, “I let pressure defeat me for the first time in my basketball career.”

The team made a misstep during the first quarter of the first game with Turkey. In the second game with the Czech Republic, the team seemed to run out of steam despite a frenzied effort at the close.

Only twins Kosuke and Joji Takeuchi had any experience of playing in a World Cup.

Japanese players seemed cowed by the aggressive play put up by their opponents and used up their stamina.

Having lost two matches that meant it would not advance past the first round, many players lost their motivation.

Two NBA players, Rui Hachimura of the Washington Wizards and Watanabe, won't be able to rejoin the Japan team until right before the Tokyo Olympics next summer.

“The only thing we can do is to try to get the players to overcome their feelings of regret and build up the skills of each player,” Watanabe said.