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Crocs top New Zealand, take aim at Asian gold
Australia topped Trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand by 25 points to advance to the final of the 2018 FIBA Asia U16 Championships n Foshan, China.
The Crocs got it done behind a stellar performance from NBA Global Academy point guard Tamuri Wigness. The 6'0 dynamo poured in a game-high 24 points on a perfect 10-10 shooting including 3-3 from beyond the three-point arc with 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals.
While Australia took an early lead, they were not able to shake their traditional Oceania rivals for good until the final period. Shooting a collective 68% from the field, the Australian's were just to hot for the Junior Tall Blacks as they advanced to the final on a 86-61 victory. they never trailed, and will be buoyed entering the final against host nation China with a chance to win their first Asian U16 title.
New Zealand attempted to employ a zone defense that was so effectively used by the Koreans in the quarterfinals. Yet the Australian's were on-song from beyond the arc from the outset, with Wani Swaka Lo Buluk on fire early, and then when Wigness joined in it was clear the Crocs were going to avoid a repeat of their offensives woes from their previous game.
Lo Buluk carried over his brilliant final quarter against Korea by adding 21 points (8-13 FG) with 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals on the biggest stage he has played in yet. He drained 5-8 from deep and has quickly become the barometer for his side's success on the world stage.
Luke Jackson continued his great tournament by adding 12 points and 6 rebounds, while Luke Travers' emergence is also encouraging, as he registered 14 points, 3 rebounds and 8 assists in a terrific all-round performance.
Australia shot almost 60% from beyond the arc, but unlike against the Koreans, lost the rebound count 25-34 - something they will need to look at against a tall Chinese front court. The Crocs inability to get to the free throw line (5-8 FT) for the second straight game is also cause for concern, with head coach Justin Schueller still with work to do.
The Chinese progressed through to the final following a narrow 6 point win over the Philippines (60-54). China were paced by Haoqin Sun's 22 points with Pengyu Lu and Pengyudi Chen dominating the paint in combining for 20 rebounds. They will be key players Australia will need to nullify in the final.
Like Australia’s quarterfinal win over Korea and the semifinal win against New Zealand, The Pick and Roll will be live streaming the semifinal on their Facebook page (details below).
All games are being live streamed by FIBA, with the Australian games simulcast on The Pick and Roll’s Facebook page, or via Spalk TV with Australian commentary provided our own Jon Guarna, the voice of Basketball Queensland’s QBL.
Australian Crocs Schedule
April 8: Gold medal game - Australia vs China | 8:00pm AEST