Opals overcome China to gain series lead + VIDEO
Australia's women's basketball team has begun to avenge a 2-1 series loss to China in May by winning the opening contest of three game series against China at the AIS Arena in Canberra by twelve points, 77-65.
Ahead by thirteen points with one quarter to play, Australia’s lead was cut to five points when less than two minutes remained before Olympian Emma Randall connected on a long range field goal to change momentum and Australia iced the game from the free throw line.
Beijing Olympian Rohanee Cox led the Opals with 14 points including a buzzer beating three-pointer to end the game in a match where all eleven Australian players scored.
Guards Alicia Poto (11 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists) and Natalie Hurst (10 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist) combined well in the back court while Lizzie Cambage (10 points, 4 rebounds) and Emma Randall (9 points, 6 rebounds) controlled the paint.
China’s Zhengyu Ma connected on 5-of-7 three-pointers and led all scorers with 21 points.
“It was a good effort to hold China to 65 points,” Graf said.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do defensively but that was a good start for this young group.
“Rohanee Cox set a standard in rebounding the ball offensively. I thought Lizzie Cambage, the baby big that she is, came in and did a solid job close to the rim and Poto and Hurst did a great job pressuring the ball.
“There’s some good signs there.
“In international basketball thirteen points can swing around like that but we were conscious not to let them back in.”
Deanna Smith was a late withdrawal from the game after being diagnosed with pneumonia this afternoon as was Carly Wilson with a back injury. Both are expected to rejoin the team for the second game of the series on August 17.
Australia plays China in Geelong on Monday before the final game of the three match series in Dandenong on August 21.
Emma Randall got an offensive rebound and converted it for Australia’s first points and the Opals led for most of a rough and tumble first quarter before China closed the gap near the first buzzer.
Ma Zengyu put China up for the first time in the match with a three pointer after play resumed before Australia’s defence stepped up to provide some opportunities from turnovers.
Cambage kept the scoreboard ticking over from in close and when Poto nailed a shot from just inside the arc just as the half time buzzer sounded the Opals had pushed their lead out to six points, 35-29.
Australia had forced 12 turnovers to garner the lead and behind a 20-14 rebounding count they were winning the physical battle but a 37 per cent shooting clip from the field and 0-for-3 from long range left the Opals with plenty of work to do.
China came out of the sheds firing on all cylinders but Cox drained Australia’s first three-pointer of the game to steady the ship and the Opals continued to pound the ball inside to great advantage.
Cambage and Tolo were controlling the paint and when China started to miss the Opals were off and running, pushing their six point half time lead out to thirteen after three quarters of play.
China continued to fight in the final stanza and reduced the margin to ten points on a Zhang Wei running two point shot when 3:20 remained on the clock.
Australia called a time out to regroup but when China put on five unanswered points to take the score to 69-64 Carrie Graf was forced to call another to break China’s momentum.
It worked, with Randall stepping up with a big shot to end China’s hopes of a comeback.
Australia had won the physical battle and the rebound count, 41-26, with seventeen of those boards offensive.
Quarter by quarter:
1. AUS 13 CHN 12
H. AUS 35 CHN 29 (22-17)
3. AUS 59 CHN 46 (24-17)
F. AUS 77 CHN 65 (18-19)
AUSTRALIA 77 (Rohanee Cox 14, Alicia Poto 11, Natalie Hurst 10, Liz Cambage 10) bt
CHINA 65 (Zengya Ma 21, Lan Bian 10, Hongping Huang 7)
at AIS Arena, Canberra
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