Australia's Emerging Opals have advanced to the semifinals of the 2017 World University Games after defeating the USA 76-69 in a stunning team performance.
Despite trailing by 11 at quarter time, the Emerging Opals outscored the USA 43-24 across the middle two periods to set up the impressive 7 point win.
Baylor's star guard Kristy Wallace was brilliant, going 7-of-10 from the field and 8-10 on free throws for a game-high 22 points. She led five Emerging Opals in scoring double figures, including Alex Wilson with 17 points (3-of-6 3PT) and 4 steals and Abi Wehrung's 13 points and 4 assists.
Darcee Garbin and Lauren Scherf formed an imposing duo in the paint as both registered double-doubles. Garbin had 10 points and an amazing 20 rebounds, while Scherf added 14 rebounds to her 10 points. The USA had no answer to their rebounding prowess, outdone 32-54 on the boards.
In a scrappy opening, neither team was able to string together any offensive cohesion or get their shots to drop. However the USA managed to edge away 8-3 lead mid-way through the first term. Wallace finally scored Australia's second field go with 4:05 left in the quarter, but her side was still trailing by 3. Both teams then came to life late in the period. Two three-pointers by Wilson who was set up by Aimie Clydesdale both times were answered by three triples by the USA. The American closed out strongly to take a dangerous-looking 23-12 lead at the first change.
While the first term belonged to the USA, the second was all Australia. A 10-2 run saw the Emerging Opals close the margin quickly, with Wehrung prominent. Consecutive three-pointers to Garbin and Wilson saw Australia take the lead. While the USA responded, Wallace closed out the half with 5 points to keep Australia in front 36-33 at the half time break.
Despite the USA's best endeavors, the third period also belonged to Australia. Both teams traded blows early on, with Wehrung draining a big shot from downtown. Scherf was working her way into the game, feeding Wehrung for another score, while scoring herself not long after to put their side 8 points ahead. Taking control, Wallace would score Australia's next 6 points to counter anything the USA threw at them. Alex Sharp scored late, and would eventually see her side leading by 11 points with one-quarter left to play.
Two turnovers to open the final term gave the USA a sniff. They would take advantage by scoring the first 7 points to seriously challenge the Emerging Opals. Garbin responded in fine fashion, connecting on an important triple that sparked a 10-0 run of their own that included a second three-pointer of her own. As the USA looked to mount a final attack, it was Wallace who answered back, raising her scoring tally to 20. Wilson scored too, but missed free throws enabled the USA to remain within reach.
Victoria Jankoska drained a massive three-pointer for the USA to get them within 5 points with just 46 seconds left. Australia then turned the ball over that saw their opponent's head to the line. The USA only managed 1-of-2 from the line, with Garbin pulling down the rebound and being immediately fouled as the USA looked to stop the clock. Garbin made 1-of-2 from the line, enough for Australia to hold on to secure an impressive 76-69 win.
Little separated either team, yet Australia's rebounding dominance (54-32) underpinned by Garbin and Scherf ultimately proved the difference, with 20 of those offensive rebounds.
Australia advance to the semifinals on Saturday, 25 August at 7:30pm AEST where they will take on Chinese Taipei who defeated Canada 76-67 in their quarterfinal. The game will be live streamed thanks to FISU - Australia vs Chinese Taipei
Australia 76: Wallace 22, Wilson 17, Wehrung 13, Garbin 10, Scherf 10 USA 69: Jankoska 17, Charles 16, Fraser 10
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 defeated USA 76-69 August 26: Semifinals - Australia vs Chinese Taipei at 7:30pm (Live Stream) August 28: Grand Final