The Emerging Opals have fallen agonisingly short of Russia in a thrilling contest 58-63, advancing to the quarterfinals despite being relegated to second position in Pool D at the 2017 World University Games in Taipei.
Baylor standout Kristy Wallace drilled the clutch triple to tie the game with 11 seconds left in the game, only to see the Russians making a late jump shot, securing the win from the free throw line at the death.
Alex Wilson led Australia in scoring with 15 points while Darcee Garbin tallied a 14 point and 11 rebound double-double with 2 blocked shots. Russian star Iuliia Gladkova poured in a game-high 27 points with 11 rebounds.
Aimie Clydesdale opened the game by feeding Lauren Scherf inside for the opening score of the game. However Russia would go on a 7-0 run to put the Emerging Opals under early scoreboard pressure. Alex Wilson responded brilliantly, capping 5 straight points with a big three-pointer, with Scherf tying things back up at the line not longer after. When Wilson knocked down her second trey, her eighth points of the quarter, Australia did enough to ensure both teams were locked at 17-all heading into the first break.
Wallace took control at the start of the second term, setting up first Abi Wehrung and then two straight buckets by Keely Froling. She then scored herself to give Australia a 4 point advantage. Yet Russia would not make way, overtaking with an 8 point swing in their favour before Garbin settled things with a much-needed score. Both sides traded leads, with Garbin playing strongly to close out the half to put her country in front 31-29 thanks to another Wallace assist, her fourth for the period.
The third quarter was an almighty arm-wrestle, with the scores locked together four times and with four lead changes. Wilson scored her tenth points early on, and while Russia never backed down, the Australian's pulled away to a 6 point lead when Vanessa Panousis found Garbin open for the assist. Russia's Iuliia Gladkova however was lifting for the occasion, finishing with a flurry to edge her side back in front by 2 at the last break.
Starting the final quarter like it was the second, Wallace was again on point in setting Garbin up for the score. Garbin would follow-up quickly on the next play with another as the Emerging Opals took back the lead. Just like in the previous period, it became a battle of attrition as Russia fought back. Australia would experienced a scoring drought despite some great offensive rebounding, enabling their foes to edge back in front. Down the stretch, Russia's Gladkova and Wilson would trade triples to set up a thrilling finish.
Ekaterina Riabova would put her country three points ahead with 29 seconds remaining thanks to making 2-of-2 from the line. After calling a timeout, Wallace stepped up to connect on a clutch three-pointer of her own to draw level with just 11 seconds left. Russia responded with a clutch Riabova jumper of their own to edge back ahead with 3 seconds left. A turnover on the next pass saw Gladkova seal it at the line, as Russia would eventually prevail by 5 points.
While Australia had shots and more rebounds, Russia made 18-of-25 from the free throw line compared to Australia's 7-of-8. The Emerging Opals also turned the ball over 8 more times, while Russia led the steal count 9-2.
While Wilson and Garbin shouldered the scoring load for Australia, Wallace would deliver 7 rebounds and 6 assists alongside her 9 points. Scherf who had dominated the opening two games, was restricted to just 6 points and 6 rebounds in a foul plagued 20 minutes.
Despite the loss, Australia finish group play in second place behind Russia and advance to the quarterfinals. They will face the winner of Pool C on Friday, 25 August at 7:30pm AEST, likely to be Team USA who are expected to beat the also unbeaten Czech Republic in their final group game.
Australia 58: Wilson 15, Garbin 14 Russia 63: Gladkova 27, Riabova 12
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 lost to Russia 58-63 August 25: Quarterfinals - Australia vs USA at 7:30pm August 26: Semifinals August 28: Grand Final