20/04/2024

Whitcomb driving to the paint. (Photo: Basketball Australia - Twitter)

The Opals fall short to China after being down by as much as eight points in the third quarter. Exploited on their on-ball defence and having a rushed, impatient offence saw Australia shoot a very low percentage from the field.

Xu Han starred for China with her touch around the rim on both ends of the floor. She finished the game with 19 points, 11 boards, five blocks, and two steals.

China changed the game in the second quarter, scoring 23 points to 13 to close the first half.

Han scored 13 points alone in the second quarter, being a three-level scorer, grabbing boards for second chance opportunities. She also provided rim protection, disallowing the Opals easy opportunities at the basket.

China’s fast-paced offensive sets and continuous non-stop play had Australia fatigued in what was a very physical game.

The Opals struggled to play on-ball defence, being exploited with drives to the paint for uncontested layups and wide-open, high-quality shots from the three-point line and mid-range area.

Australia also shot poorly, only being successful on 31 per cent of its shots from the field and 23 per cent from three-point range.

Almost making a comeback, however, Australia was able to turn some of its defence into offence and get out in transition.

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Leading the way in this game for the Opals was Sami Whitcomb. She scored 15 points while having three assists, and two steals. 

Steph Talbot continued showing the consistency that she has shown throughout the entire tournament, ending up with a double-double of 12 points, 10 rebounds, and three steals. Talbot’s assist numbers were lower than what we have seen when the Opals are playing their true brand of basketball.

Ezi Magbegor scored 12 points on 60 per cent from the field, playing an all-around game against China, also having six rebounds, three steals, two assists, and a block.

When the game was going down the wire, the Opals struggled to have control down the stretch of the fourth quarter. The Opals after being down managed to get the game into a series of lead changes before owning the lead for a period of time.

The Opals managed to get China to turnover the ball via shot clock violations, however, they did not capitalise offensively. They either ran terrible plays around the perimeter and did not capitalise on mismatches that were in their favour or turned over the ball in really bad spots with pressing defence from China.

Liwei Yang kept China in the game throughout the contest, finishing the game with 18 points on 58 per cent shooting from the field along with four assists.

Siyu Wang played a pivotal role in the dying seconds of the game, hitting the game-winning free throws with 3.4 seconds left in the game. Wang’s average free-throw percentage was 63 per cent coming into this game and shot 5/6 from the foul line (83.3 per cent).

Wang had 14 points along with three rebounds, a steal, and a block. The only bad part of her performance was five turnovers.

After Wang’s free throws and a timeout, the Opals had a chance to tie the game with a drive from Magbegor, however, the shot was missed.

Australia will face Canada on Saturday at 1pm at the Sydney Superdome for the Bronze medal, meanwhile, China will play the United States for the Gold medal at 4pm.

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