Australia have dropped their second straight game to open the FIBA U17 World Championships, going down to China 72-90 in a physical encounter.
For the second straight game, Australia started off slowly as China raced to a 12-3 early lead. The injection of Patrick Bines into the game had an immediate effect, as Australia eroded their lead thanks to some great team work and plays, including a big three by Tom Fullarton and an athletic finish at the rim by Bines. When Kyle Zunic tied the game up at 15-all, Australia had forced their opponents to call a timeout.
While China responded with a three-pointer, Australia’s defensive intensity was forcing China into contested shots. China’s size and length was causing Australia some problems of their own, making it difficult for Australia to score. Mate Colina was holding his own in the paint, drawing a foul to make it 18-20 in favour of China at the first break.
Australia opened the second quarter with a strong defensive play, enabling Fullarton to convert a strong drive for a three-point play at the other end to take a 21-20 lead. China’s physicality was continuing to make it difficult for Australia to score inside. Yet Callum Dalton missed an open dunk in the lane which was punished at the other end as China made the and-1. Dalton's miss would prove costly, as China would go on a mini-run to open up a 31-23 lead.
A tough lay-in by Lachlan Dent slowed China’s momentum after a much-needed timeout. However China remained steady, with Haotian Bai connecting on a contested three-ball to stretch the margin out to 11. From there both teams traded blows until Xiangbao Li hit a three-pointer to increase their lead to 16. Froling made a nice manoeuvre in the paint for an immediate reply, only for China to score as time expired to ensure they took a commanding 46-30 lead at half time.
Poor shooting from the free throw line was also hurting Australia, managing a paltry 8/15. China were scoring a a very good clip, highlighting both their dominance in the paint and Australia's defensive lapses.
Both teams found scoring difficult to open the second half. Fullarton did his best to get Australia going, with a nice drive and soon after a put-back score. However China answered every challenge and extended the lead to 19 points after they scored on a fast break following an Australian turnover. China then made some big shots from beyond the arc to continue to place the pressure on Australia, eventually heading into the final break 63-42 ahead and in control.
Froling scored Australia's first 5 points of the last quarter, including a long-range shot from beyond the arc to get the scoring going for Australia in the final term. When Fullarton found Dent in the corner for a three to narrow the margin to 16, Australia still had hope of being able to pull out a comeback yet China continued to reply each challenge.
Fullarton then went on a scoring spree as part of an 13 point final term to narrow the margin to 13 points with just over 2 minutes remaining. China would finish strongly, recording a convincing 90-72 win.
Australia surprisingly won the rebound count 40-36, snaring 17 offensive boards. However Australia's shooting was poor, making just 35% of their attempts from the field while allowing China to connect on an impressive 55% clip.
Fullarton led all scorers with 25 points (11/20 FG) and 5 rebounds, while Froling was Australia's only other player to record double-digit scoring with 15 points on a perfect 5/5 shooting from the field with 8 rebounds and 2 blocked shots.
Australia's next face Finland in their final group game early on Monday morning from 2:45am AEST. They will be looking to bounce back ahead of the next round for which their results will carry over.
Australia 72 (Fullarton 25p, 5r; Froling 15p, 7r, 2b; Bines 7p, 7r) China 90 (Bai 21p, 5r, 4a; Wang 14p, 3a; Zhao 12p, 5r; Li 12p, 3r)