Australia's Emerging Opals have made it a perfect two-from-two start at the Summer Universiade, backing up yesterday’s win over Lithuania with a 69-37 victory over Argentina.
Lauren Scherf and Darcee Garbin led the scoring for the Australians with 17 and 15 points respectively to set up a fight for top spot in the team’s final pool game against Russia on Wednesday.
Australian coach Chris Lucas went with an unchanged starting lineup, and the five players didn’t disappoint in the early stages, with the Emerging Opals opening up an early 4-0 lead. With the Argentinian side unable to conjure anything in the way of points in the opening three minutes, a brief scoring drought for the Emerging Opals went unpunished, and Alex Wilson made Argentina pay with a trademark three just shy of the midway point of the first term to take the score to 7-0.
Argentina finally got on the scoreboard shortly after courtesy of two points from Obras Basket guard Juileta Ale, who then drew and converted a pair of free throws to get her team out of an early hole. Argentina trimmed the margin to a solitary point, but Panousis came off the bench and immediately made an impact for Australia, knocking down a three just 11 seconds after she came into the game. In a low-scoring quarter, each basket became increasingly vital, with the margin hovering around the four point mark as the opening term ended with Australia up 12-8.
The Australians doubled their margin to 16-8 in the early stages through Abigail Wehrung and Panousis, before Argentina finally knocked down their first shot of the quarter nearly three minutes in. With their opponents shooting at well under 20% for the first half, even a barely competent shooting performance would garner an improved lead for the Australians, and whilst their 33% clip was hardly lights-out, it allowed them to push their lead out to double-digits as Garbin swished home a three midway through the term.
Argentina engineered something of a mini-revival late in the term, but it was quickly halted by an Australian timeout even as the Emerging Opals retained a 22-13 lead. A Keely Froling basket restored the Australian momentum shortly after, and mercifully for the neutrals in attendance, the scoring improved on both sides in the latter stages of the quarter. Argentinian centre Julieta Mungo picked up her fourth foul and then managed to pick up a technical foul to go with it to foul out before halftime, and the Australians took advantage to score the last five points of the half and take a 30-17 lead into halftime.
Centre Lauren Scherf went the unconventional three-point route to open the second half scoring for Australia, but it was Argentina hitting shots with more regularity in the early stages of the third quarter. Mayra Leiva created havoc in the paint, but a Garbin three and another basket from Scherf ensured that the Australians maintained a double-digit lead as the third quarter progressed. Like the first two quarters, extended scoring droughts affected both teams and maintained the status quo for long periods of time.
A three from Wehrung after over two minutes of no points from either side put a 15 point cushion between the two teams with three minutes to play in the third quarter and forced an Argentina timeout with the scoreboard reading 41-26. The Argentinian side certainly had the better of the minutes after the timeout, trimming the lead to 42-31 by the end of the term to leave the Australians in control but not out of the woods with a quarter to play.
Scherf continued her excellent start to the tournament, taking her personal tally to 13 points with the opening basket of the final quarter, before Garbin also moved into double figures as the Australians re-established a 15 point margin. The pair combined for Australia’s first eight points of the quarter before Kristy Wallace knocked down a couple of shots as the Emerging Opals opened the quarter on a 13-2 run to put the game to bed early in the final term at 55-33 up with six minutes to play.
Argentina eventually added more points to their tally, but Scherf and Garbin were in unstoppable form late in the contest. The pair was finally rewarded with a rest as Megan McKay and Chelsea Brook entered for the first time with Australia up 60-36 entering the final five minutes. With the result not in doubt, Argentina were able to trim the margin in the final couple of minutes, but the Emerging Opals were still able to secure a comprehensive 69-47 victory as McKay secured her first points of the tournament with a pair of free throws in the final seconds of the contest.
Scherf again top scored, tallying 17 points on 6 of 9 shooting from the field, and also collected 8 rebounds. Garbin was also exemplary once again, completing a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds. Aimie Clydesdale and Vanessa Panousis did more dishing than swishing, registering six assists apiece.
After winning their opening two games, the Emerging Opals will be looking to close out their preliminary games with a win against Russia at 2:30pm on Wednesday, 23 August. Like Australia, Russia are undefeated, with the winner set to top Pool D.
Australia 69: Scherf 17, Garbin 15
Argentina 47: Ale 17
Emerging Opals Schedule (all times AEST)
Pool D August 21: Australia defeated Lithuania 78-71 August 22: Australia defeated Argentina 69-47 August 23: Australia vs Russia at 2:30pm August 25: Quarterfinals August 26: Semifinals August 28: Grand Final