It was a unique preparation for the Boomers, who were faced with a change of timezones and short recovery period ahead of their latest World Cup Qualifier against Kazakhstan in Bendigo.
Despite the difficult lead up, it was another obliterating win for the Aussies, who harassed their way to a 94-41 victory. The second consecutive 50 point victory outlined their dominance over the middle rungs of Group F.
After dismantling Qatar by 52 points in the early hours of Friday morning, they faced an opponent who was likely suffering from similarly weary legs. Kazakhstan went down 85-70 against a Japanese team that has handed the Boomers their only loss in World Cup qualification so far.
The only change heading into the night for Australia was the expected return of Chris Goulding, who was once again eligible for national team selection after serving his one game suspension he incurred as a result of the infamous melee in the Philippines earlier this year. Perth Wildcat, Jesse Wagstaff was the unfortunate player to miss after leading all scorers with 18 points in the crushing win over Qatar.
Any concerns over a sluggish start for the Boomers were quickly put to rest, as the suffocating defense we witnessed against Qatar once again played havoc with the Kazakhstan offense. Australia were able to force an incredible nine turnovers in the first period, translating those takeaways into eight points down the other end.
Some sharp shooting from Mitch McCarron helped the Boomers to a 22-6 lead at the end of the first, with the Melbourne United star knocking down both of this 3-point attempts.
The second quarter was more of the same from the Boomers perspective, as they were able to force seven more turnovers resulting in transition opportunities down the other end. Nathan Sobey took his total to 11 at the half, to lead all players on the court, as the Boomers continued to run away with the contest, opening up a 41-19 lead at the main break.
Souring the dominant half, was Angus Brandt going down with what looked to be a serious right ankle sprain with 4:46 remaining in the second quarter. The Wildcats big man was supported off the court and headed straight for the locker room – he would not return.
— Roy Ward (@rpjward) September 17, 2018
With much of the intensity taken out of the contest due to the lopsided scoreboard, the second half felt like it was a matter of trying to get through unscathed and untested. Matt Hodgson (calf), joined Brandt (ankle) on the sidelines for the remainder of the game. Wile the word from the Boomers camp was that the injuries were not significant, with the game in hand, they chose to err on the side of caution.
By the end of the night the Boomers had forced 34 turnovers, led the fast break points count 33-3, and dished out 30 assists. It truly was a team performance against a Kazakstan team that was never really allowed time to settle into the contest. Head coach Renatas Kurilionokas lamented his teams inability to maintain possession of the ball from the outset, the gruelling travel schedule potentially playing into the poor performance.
“We had a long flight, a 24 hour flight. We weren’t ready to play tonight, not against this team,” a clearly disappointed Kurilionokas shared.
The mood was far more vibrant from the winners, as Andrej Lemanis and Todd Blanchfield faced the media; a tired but proud duo.
“To beat anyone in international competition by 50 points takes certain resolve and attitude, and regardless of the scoreline our application and defence was spot on,” Lemanis said.
“I’m really proud of the group and how they maintained that and didn’t let the game get ratty at any point, we maintained a quality in our performance which is pleasing and tough to do.”
The win leaves the Boomers clearly on top of the standings with 15 points, after Iran went down to Japan overnight to sit second on 14. Despite the strong positioning, Lemanis was unwilling to converse on how close the Aussies are to qualifying to next years World Cup.
“All we can do is play the games as they present in front of us and if you start getting lost in the results then the results don’t go your way. All we need just to get lost in is playing defence, talking, sharing the ball and playing the right way.”
Given how hungry the squad has looked over the past two games, this looks unlikely to be an issue.
Up next: The next FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifying window begins on November 30, with Australia hosting Iran in a top of the table clash at Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne.
FIBA World Cup Qualifying Schedule (all times AEST):
14 September: Australia defeated Qatar 95-43
17 September: Australia defeated Kazakhstan 94-41
30 November: Australia vs Iran at Margaret Court Arena, Victoria
3 December: Australia vs Qatar at Margaret Court Arena, Victoria
21 February: Australia vs Kazakhstan (TBA)
24 February: Australia vs Iran (TBA)