After winning their opening game of the 2014 FIBA World Championships against Cuba in Istanbul, Turkey, the Opals maintained their winning ways in easily accounting for Korea 87-54 and improving to an unblemished 2-0 record.
Playing with intense defensive pressure and composure on offense, the Opals were led superbly by co-Captains Laura Hodges (14 points and 4 rebounds) and Penny Taylor (11 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists). Taylor’s WNBA championships winning team-mate Erin Phillips was also outstanding at both ends, scoring 4 points with 7 assists.
Continuing from the game against Cuba, the Opals played an up-tempo brand of basketball, with Marianna Tolo benefiting early as she scored Australia’s first 4 points. Taylor hit her first shot, a triple, that was immediately followed by a Laura Hodges bomb and Australia had edged ahead 10-4 early. Able to generate wide open looks at will, the Opals then saw Snell get in on the act, hitting the Opals third 3-pointer of the quarter.
The second quarter commenced with both teams finding the going tough with some scrappy plays at both ends. Korea were trying to match the Opals intensity, trying to push the ball in transition with little success. Australia’s size was causing Korea problems as Tolo and Hodges gained the upper hand at both ends of the court. When Tessa Lavey scored with a little more than 3 minutes left in the half, Australia had opened up a commanding 24 point lead. Despite losing momentum in the last few minutes before the main break, Snell stepped up to steady the team with a big three to close out the half with the Opals leading 45-22.
Taylor was being constantly harassed and took advantage of an unsportsmanlike foul by making both from the line early in the period. Korea rallied, connecting on some long-range shots as they tried hard to stay in touch. However the more experienced, polished Opals came to the fore led by Hodges who had 10 points for the period. The Australians closed out the quarter leading 66-37.
Having gone scoreless for the first 3 quarters, Natalie Burton started the last period on fire to finish with 10 final quarter points to help maintain the pressure. With Brendan Joyce giving the bench a run, the Opals repaid the faith with all 12 players making the score sheet when Rebecca Allen nailed a long jumper. The young Koreans showed potential but were clearly no match for the Opals who would finish with a big 33 point win – the same winning margin in the win against Cuba.
Australia had a host of contributors who provided good support to Hodges, Taylor and Phillips. Tolo finished with 13 points and 5 rebounds, Snell has 13 points and 4 rebounds, while Burton’s last quarter run saw her finish with 10 points and 7 rebounds. The Opals dominated the paint, out-rebounding Korea 48-32 and delivering 34 points in comparison to just 12 from their FIBA Asia opponents. Despite playing aggressive defense, the Opals only committed 8 fouls for the game and were able to minimize their turnovers to just 10 which is sure to please Coach Joyce.
Erin Phillips was happy with the win, explaining to the media after the game that her role was to get everyone involved in the game, referencing the game against Cuba where she went scoreless.
“Yeah, probably the first game trying to get everyone else involved I was not looking for my shot,” Phillips stated.
With Coach Brendan Joyce using the bench extensively against Korea, Phillips shared that it was a good thing for the team moving forward.
“No, it’s a great thing to put your bench on and give them the experience. It’s fantastic for them. He (Joyce) asked if I wanted to go back on and I said no, just let them play.”
Joyce shared the sentiments expressed by Phillips.
“Well when the opportunity presents itself, I will always do that (run the bench),” stated Joyce.
“We are a very unselfish team, we have great team chemistry.”
On the final Group C game against Belarus, Joyce has this to say:
“Like most Euro teams, if you don’t defend they will shoot and knock shots down from the 3-point line.”
Australia next face Belarus on Tuesday, 30 September 2014, with the game being broadcast live on ABC2 nationally from 11:25pm (Vic, NSW, Qld, Tas, ACT); 10:55pm (SA, NT); 9:25pm (WA).