Australia has advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2018 FIBA Under-17 World Cup for men after registering a 74-65 win over Mali in the Round of 16.
Luke Jackson led a balanced scoring attack with a big 15 point and 14 rebound double-double, Australia's defence held firm against the bigger Mali front court, pulling away in the final minute to win by 9 points.
It was the Croc's fourth straight game decided by single digit margins following two 2 point wins against the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, while going down by the same margin to Turkey in the group stage. The victory set up a quarterfinal berth against Canada who easily accounted for the Philippines in their Round of 16 contest.
Having struggled in taking care of the ball all tournament, nothing changed in early in the game with the Crocs turning the ball over three times as Mali opened up a 6-0 lead. Wani Lo Buluk was able to finally get the Aussie's scoring going almost 3 minutes in, following up soon after with a nice feed to Luke Travers for the lay-up. But Mali were playing super aggressively on the offense end, forcing Australia on the back foot in transition. Joel Capetola's injection into the game paid immediate dividends, with the forward 7-0 run capped by a Kobe Williamson triple that saw Australia close the margin to 1. Mali's back court continued to fire from deep, with Alou Traore helping his country to a narrow 19-15 lead at the first break.
Tamuri Wigness found Luke Jackson for the first score of the second period, and when Travers found Hunter Clarke wide open for a three-pointer, Australia had stolen the lead 22-21. The sides exchanged the lead several times, with Jackson and Wigness able to find ways to keep the Australian score ticking over. But the scoring dried up for both sides as the turnover count mounted. After a brief rest, Jackson returned to the court and immediately drained a three from the wing to give the Crocs their biggest lead of the game at 7. The tournament's leading scorer, Siriman Kanoute, returned fire from beyond the arc, but it was the Aussies who would take a 4 point lead into half time after outscoring their opponents 19-11 for the term.
Kobe Williamson | Credit: FIBA
Australia came out after the break and turned the ball over on three consecutive possessions that allowed Mali to quickly tie up the game inside the first minute. Travers steadied the ship when he scored off a steal. Oumar Ballo in particular was causing problems for the Crocs in the paint, as Mali's superior size was becoming more evident, coming up with some deep seals and offensive rebounds. Yet Australia's defence was holding up well, as they continued to force Mali's perimeter players into difficult shots. Williamson, who had been doing a fantastic job defensively, stepped out to drain his second trey at the other end to keep Australia in front. With both teams turning the ball over and unable to connect on open shots, the scores remained close. Ballo would score just before the three-quarter time buzzer sounded to close the margin just 1 point.
After Mali tied up the scores to open the final period from the charity stripe courtesy of Kanoute, Williamson connected on this third triple of the night. Turnovers and missed shots plagued both sides, with Australia able to keep their noses in front. For the fourth straight game for the Australian's, the game would go right down to the wire.
The Croc's defensive intensity and hustle plays were starting to shine through. When Travers' kicked out to Capetola in the corner for a massive three with 2:07 to play, the Aussies had pulled away by 6. While Mali responded courtesy of a Ballo dunk at the other end, Jackson cleaned up a Wigness miss the next play to restore the margin. Kanoute was threatening for Mali, but another big three-pointer, this time to Wigness, would ultimately ensure Australia came away with an important victory.
Despite giving up a size advantage and being outscored by 10 points in the paint, Australia won the rebound count by 2 while also managing to restrict Mali to just 12% (3-25) shooting from the three-point line. Turnovers were still a problem for the Aussies who committed 20, but it was an improvement from their previous game against Puerto Rico where they gave up a staggering 29 and remains an area the Crocs can improve upon.
For Jackson, it was is fourth double-double from as many games, but he did not play a lone hand as four other Crocs scored in double figures. Travers also posted 15 points along with 4 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals, while Wigness added 13 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 steals and Williamson's 13 points and 4 rebounds.
Mali were led by a game-high 20 points and 15 rebounds by 6'9 centre Ballo, restricting Kanoute to 17 points on 6-24 shooting and just 2-16 from beyond the three-point arc.
Australia will next take on a very talented Canadian side, with the game to be played at 2:00am AEST on Saturday morning. Addison Patterson and Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe are their two leading players for whom Australia will need to be mindful of in their quest to progress to the semifinals.
Australia’s quarterfinal will once again be streamed live to The Pick and Roll’s Facebook page with commentary provided by Jon Guarna and Damian Arsenis.
The Pick and Roll will be streaming every Australian game LIVE thanks to FIBA with commentary provided by ‘the voice of the QBL’ Jon Guarna who will be joined by Damian Arsenis via Facebook.
1 July: Australia defeated Dominican Republic 73-71 2 July: Australia lost to Turkey 79-81 4 July: Australia defeated Puerto Rico 68-66 5 July: Round of 16: Australia defeated Mali 74-65 7 July: Quarter-Finals: Australia vs Canada, 2:00am AEST 8 July: Semi-Finals 9 July: Medal Games