Jayco Opals beat France in Sheffield Invitational
The Jayco Australian Opals have beaten France in the first game of the Standard Life Invitational Challenge in Sheffield, and their first match-up after arriving in Europe, taking the win 69-59.
Despite still recovering from their extended travel schedule, the Jayco Opals showed great energy early, getting out on the break and turning this contest into a running game. France seemed flustered early, as the Aussie intensity on defense and out in the open floor saw them take the early lead.
Cambage was a real focus for the Jayco Opals in the paint, as the team executed their offensive sets well and were able to find the 203cm centre under the basket on a number of plays. The Aussies took a 21-11 lead into the first break, Sandrine Gruda the only scoring threat for France in the first.
Things changed dramatically in the second term as the Jayco Opals struggled to find the bottom of the net, missing a couple of sitters mid-way through the term, as France employed their own running game to swing the momentum.
The Aussies struggled defensively against the French transition, and the change of pace rattled the Jayco Opals. France scored 10 fast-break points in the second term as the Aussies found themselves in foul trouble.
France took a 31-29 lead into the changerooms. Jenna O’Hea took a knock to the head in the second and would not take any further part in the contest, leaving the Aussies short, with Suzy Batkovic also not taking any part in the game.
Gruda was again key to the France turn around, making some impressive plays on the inside. She was well supported by Isabelle Yacoubou also.
France started big in the third term, creating match-up issues for the Jayco Opals, who were looking shaky. Head coach Carrie Graf switched the defense to a zone and the move settled the group, and curbed the momentum.
Belinda Snell was starting to heat up and Cambage continued to be a dominant force for the Aussies offensively.
With fewer turnovers and their zone defense frustrating the French, the Jayco Opals regained control of the game and by the end of the third quarter, had pulled out to a five-point advantage.
Lauren Jackson was also starting to show her class at both ends of the court, as the Jayco Opals pulled away in the fourth and cruised to the hard-fought 10-point win.
Kristi Harrower’s excellent on-court leadership was particularly telling with the side’s back against the wall, in running the group and finding the right avenues offensively. Bishop was solid at the defensive end also.
“It was a gritty win over a very good opponent,” said head coach Carrie Graf.
“We are happy with the team effort tonight on the back of the international travel. The team had a fantastic start to the game and although we had a couple of dips, the energy and persistence of the team was a huge positive for us. It was a good win without Suzy Batkovic and also after losing O'Hea. Cambage had a great match," she said.
The Jayco Opals next play Great Britain tonight at 5:00pm local time (Sunday, 2:00am AEST). You can follow the game on FIBA Livestats (CLICK HERE).
Jayco Australian Opals 69 (Cambage 28, Snell 16, Jackson 13) defeated France 59 (Gruda 13, Yacoubou 12)