Were this game being played at the MCG, or Eden Gardens in Kolkata, “Australia defeat India by 85” would not be a shocking headline for most people. However, this was the margin of victory for the Opals as they secured their place in the final Olympic Qualifying Tournament with a 114-29 victory over India.
Bec Allen buried 5 of 7 from deep on her way to 20 points as five Australians finished in double figures.
The Opals made one change to the starting lineup, with Marianna Tolo coming in as Liz Cambage took up position behind the bench, having not dressed for the game. The change had little effect on the chemistry though as the Opals jumped out to an 11-0 lead through three minutes, with the Australians’ length playing havoc with the Indian offence. Bec Allen in particular was on fire in the opening minutes, knocking down a pair of threes and using her wingspan to come up with a steal and a block before India called a timeout.
A flurry of subs ensued, with Tess Madgen immediately catching fire with a pair of corner threes before Ezi Magbegor found her way to the rack as the scoreline reached 25-0. With the Opals taking the chance to test their full-court defence, India found themselves under serious pressure before even getting the ball across midcourt on a number of occasions. However, they returned serve with a couple of blocks late in the opening term before finally draining their first basket with a banked three in the dying seconds of the end of the opening term, which ended 36-3 in Australia’s favour.
Tessa Lavey entered the game in the second quarter, quickly draining a three before assisting on a Cayla George midrange. However, the points came comparatively slowly for the Opals in the second quarter. The Australians tallied just ten in the first five minutes of the second term as their shooting accuracy wavered after an electric opening to the game.
However, Allen remained an exception to this trend as the New York Liberty sharpshooter knocked down four of her first six attempts from three-point range to end the first half with 17 points. India managed to tally 8 points for the term, but with the length of the Australians making contested looks almost unviable, six of these points came from prayer-range threes. With coach Sandy Brondello testing out combinations here and there, the offence perhaps wasn’t always as crisp as it could be, but the Opals still went into halftime up 57-11.
The second half started a lot like the first as the Opals came out in a far more ruthless mood than they had shown in the second quarter. Exquisite ball movement at times conjured points at a rapid rate, opening the term on a 16-0 run before India tallied their first basket just shy of the five-minute mark. However, that basket did nothing to halt the Opals’ already freight train-like momentum as they rolled to a 31-point quarter. A late and-one provided a highlight for India’s Sruthi Arvind, but the scoreline read 88-17 with ten minutes left to play.
Darcee Garbin’s first basket of the game from close range ensured that all 11 available Australian players finished the contest with points as the second unit played out most of the final quarter. However, considering the gulf in class between the two teams, Brondello will not have been impressed with the fact that India all but kept pace with the Opals on the scoreboard for much of the final term.
A timeout with three minutes to play restored order, and an improved showing in the latter minutes saw the Opals end the game on a 12-2 run to emerge as 114-29 victors, securing their passage through to the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in the process. Encouragingly, the Opals reduced their turnover numbers from a dismal 22 against Chinese Taipei two nights earlier to just six against India. However, they left eight points at the charity stripe in connecting on just 11 of 19 free throws. Given the recent history of close results between Australia and Sunday’s opponent in Japan, those additional points could prove crucial in securing victory for the Opals.
Allen’s 20 points and 7 rebounds led the Opals, whilst Ezi Magbegor came up just shy of a double-double with 16 points and 9 rebounds. Jenna O’Hea, Cayla George, and Tess Madgen also finished with double-digits in the points column, whilst Steph Talbot tallied 7 of the Opals’ 37 assists to lead the team in that category. All 11 Australians who saw the court played at least 13 minutes, with only Magbegor and Madgen playing in excess of 20 minutes.
With their passage through to the Olympic Qualifying Tournament secure, the Opals now face Japan at 9pm AEDT on Sunday. That game will be broadcast live on The Pick and Roll’s Facebook page.
14 November: Australia defeated Chinese Taipei 84-51
16 November: Australia defeated India 114-29
17 November: Australia vs Japan | 9:00pm AEST