THE Australian Opals have finished at the top of their group in the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup after taking down the Japan to the tune of 17 points on Tuesday night.
It was Australia’s fourth win in a row, bouncing back after a false start against France on the opening night. The Opals now have a clear path to the decider, with the finals set to kick off tomorrow afternoon.
While the Aussies were tipped to get the win, Japan had shown promise in glimpses during the opening week of games. The Opals had got the job done without being dominant too, so an upset was certainly possible.
Japan kicked off the game in an ideal manner, jumping out to a five-point advantage in the first five minutes, as Monica Okoye got going from behind the arc. A late triple from Lauren Jackson brought the Opals back to within two points at the first change.
The Aussies were let back into the game as Japan began to force their threes through some tough contests. The ball movement from the Opals was a joy to watch, always willing to make the extra pass and find the open player. It was a team effort as the home side turned its quarter-time deficit into a two-point lead at the main break.
Australia’s defence went up a notch in the third term, constantly trapping the opposition ball carrier and forcing turnovers. Sami Whitcomb was able to run point for the Opals, and created a number of scoring opportunities, whether the shot was from her hands or her teammates. A 20-9 term from the Aussies saw them take a double-digit lead into the final term after Cayla George beat the buzzer to close the third quarter.
The Opals began to get a bit undisciplined in the final period, giving away a number of fouls to open the fourth and opening the door for Japan’s unlikely comeback. Thankfully for the home side, the opposition could not take full advantage of this and in a low scoring final period, Australia was able to close out a solid defensive performance and take a 71-54 triumph.
Marianna Tolo was Australia’s best in victory, having an impact on both ends of the court and impacting the result in a major way. She finished with a statline of 14 points, six rebounds and two assists and was too clever for the Japanese defence. Whitcomb had another solid offensive outing with 15 points, while George flirted with a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds.
Okoye’s sharpshooting performance saw her finish as Japan’s only double-digit scorer. Three three-pointers saw her finish with 14 points, five clear of any of her teammates.
In the remaining results for Tuesday, Canada was a class above Mali, claiming a 26-point triumph while Serbia edged out France by six points in a nail-biter.