Japan squeezed through to the women's basketball semi-finals following a dramatic 86-85 victory over Belgium at the Tokyo Olympics.

Targeting a first medal in the event, the host nation almost suffered last-gasp heartbreak after recovering from 70-61 behind in the final quarter.

Saki Hayashi’s three-pointer put them in front by one with 16 seconds remaining, but there was still time for Belgium’s Kim Mestdagh to take aim right at the death.

However, her last-second jump shot bounced off the rim, meaning Japan go through to a last-four clash with France.

"There were so many peaks and valleys. We were hanging on to the cliff by a fingernail in the fourth quarter," coach Tom Hovasse said.

"We just came up with plays and towards the middle of the fourth quarter, we ramped up our defence and that took them out of their comfort zone.

"We believe in ourselves, and I am hoping more people outside our locker room believe in us.

"I think it is safe to say it is the biggest win in Japan basketball history."

 

FRANCE FEND OFF SPAIN FIGHTBACK

Japan's next opponents are France, who beat Spain 67-64 after another epic encounter.

Despite dominating most of the contest – Marine Johannes leading the way with 18 points – France appeared in danger of throwing it all away as they fell 61-60 behind.

However, they recovered to snatch victory and secure a third consecutive appearance in the last four.

Astou Ndour had 16 points in a losing cause for Spain, runners up from the Rio Games who will not be taking home a medal this time around.

 

SERBIA STUN CHINA

Serbia were another team to produce an inspired turnaround as they defeated China 77-70.

Bronze medallists on their debut in Rio, the European champions recovered from 58-50 down to reach their second successive semi-final at the Games.

"How many times have we done this, 20, 30 times?" said shooting guard Ana Dabovic, who claimed six assists during the game to go alongside her 13 points.

"We never quit, and we play the hardest when we are down. We showed today we can find energy.

"This is a great success for a small country. Second time at the Olympics for Serbia; second time in the semi-finals. This is great."

Jelena Brooks top-scored with 18 points for Serbia, while Sonja Vasic had 16.


SEVEN IN A ROW STILL ON

The United States remain on course for a seventh straight Olympic gold after easing to a 79-55 win over three-time silver medallists Australia.

Breanna Stewart led the way with 20 first-half points – she would finish the contest with 23 overall - as USA ran out 79-55 winners.

"I thought we came out and played inspired basketball on both sides of the ball," said coach Dawn Staley.

"We played with an incredible desire to advance and it was just contagious.

"I thought our team was focused on keeping the heat on Australia and not let them back in the game."

Team USA have not failed to win the women’s tournament at an Olympics since Barcelona in 1992.

World champions Spain and Luka Doncic's Slovenia are set for a top-of-the-table shoot-out in Group C at Tokyo 2020 after both teams were victorious on Thursday.

In a tough preliminary round pool, both Spain and Slovenia have two wins from two to reach the quarter-finals heading into an intriguing match-up.

With perennial Olympic champions the United States looking a little ordinary, the two nations will fancy their chances of breakthrough golds.

Their latest exploits ensured Sunday's game will attract plenty of attention, considering it could open the door to a potentially easier route through the knockout rounds.

RUBIO INSPIRES SPAIN AGAIN

Spain reinforced their status as the team to beat as they eased past Argentina, the opponents they also defeated in the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup final.

Ricky Rubio was the MVP at that event, leading the champions with 20 points in the final, and he was highly influential once more in Tokyo on Thursday.

The Minnesota Timberwolves guard had 26 points – 13 in each half – with 83 per cent three-point shooting in an 81-71 success.

It was all painfully familiar for Argentina, as Nicolas Laprovittola explained: "We know Spain, we know how they play, we know Ricky Rubio is the key."

With Doncic up next, Spain coach Sergio Scariolo added: "We are 2-0. We beat a very strong team, so we take it and we move forward." Doncic is 15-0 in Slovenia colours in all competitions.

'IT'S NOT ONLY LUKA... THAT TEAM CAN HOOP!'

Doncic is undoubtedly Slovenia's player to watch, having added to his 48-point Olympic debut against Argentina with 25 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, two blocks and two steals in a 116-81 demolition of hosts Japan.

But Slovenia – described by Japan coach Julio Lamas as "a very complete team with one amazing player" – have more to them than the 22-year-old alone.

Zoran Dragic weighed in with 24 points, while Vlatko Cancar shot five of five from the field – including three of three from deep – for 16. Klemen Prepelic added 12 in 20 minutes off the bench.

"It's not only Luka," said the Washington Wizards' Rui Hachimura, whose 34 points were in vain. "That team has guys who can actually hoop. There's a lot of guys who can score."

Turning their focus towards the Spain game, Slovenia coach Aleksander Sekulic said: "We want to play our game and we're going to prepare and we're going to be ready for them.

"We have a great coaching staff; they're really doing an amazing job. We want to play our style, our game, and also make Spain think about us."

ROJA REVENGE AS WOMEN SINK SERBIA

It was double delight for Spain on Thursday as their women claimed an eye-catching win over Serbia, the new European champions.

Spain had won back-to-back EuroBasket Women titles prior to co-hosting this year's event, where they were beaten by Serbia in the quarter-finals.

Serbia went on to take the championship and named a strong team again for the Games, but Spain fought back in Group A.

Alba Torrens put up 25 points and Astou Ndour added 20 along with nine rebounds in an 85-70 win that puts them top of the pool.

"We know they badly wanted this revenge from Valencia," said Serbia coach Marina Maljkovic, while Jelena Brooks added: "Knowing Spain and what they came here to do because of the Eurobasket, we knew they were going to punish our mistakes twice as bad as Canada did [in the opening game]."

Canada, meanwhile, recorded a 74-53 triumph over South Korea early in the day.

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