Gems exhibit gulf in class with big win over Mexico

Improved execution against a less demanding opponent saw Australia bounce back from their first-game loss to Japan with a 104-34 victory over Mexico in their second game of the Under 19 World Cup.

Samantha Simons led all scorers with 17 points, with Mississippi State bound Chloe Bibby adding 16 points and 6 rebounds.

The Gems started promisingly, with Ezi Magbegor driving to the basket for the opening points on the first possession of the game, but early turnovers stifled a couple of promising opportunities for the Australians. However, the Gems managed to settle into their offence a lot more quickly and find close-range looks in the early stages.

With anything remotely resembling a jump shot almost an afterthought for both sides, the inside game became the early focus, which suited the Australians and their length advantage to a T, with Magbegor especially able to disrupt the Mexican offence. When an outside shot did eventuate, it was Kiera Rowe knocking down a corner three to put the Australians up 15-7 midway through the opening term and force a Mexico timeout.

The Gems continued to disrupt Mexico’s offence as the quarter went on, forcing their opponents into low-percentage looks and picking off the occasional pass. With Zitina Aokuso dominating in the paint in the latter stages of the quarter, the Gems lead swelled to 25-9 as Rowe hit a deep two with time winding down before Aokuso just beat the buzzer from under the basket after the Gems forced a turnover on the inbound pass.

The Gems’ lead grew to 29-9 early in the second quarter as Chloe Bibby added four quick points to start the term. However, from there the scoring dried up as the Australians failed to finish a few easy attempts, but with Mexico unable to add to their tally for over three minutes, the Gems’ lead remained largely untouched.

Maddison Rocci knocked down the Gems’ second three of the afternoon midway through the second quarter to double Saturday’s tally from beyond the arc even before halftime as the team’s shooting vastly improved from all areas. To Mexico’s credit, they continued to battle away and found their way to the line on a couple of journeys down court, but on most occasions the pressure of the Australian defense proved to be a significant disruption.

The Australian front court contingent continued to dominate the paint, with 11 first half offensive rebounds a highlight for the Gems. A pair of late Abby Cubillo free throws took the Australian score past the half-century mark, with the Gems holding a dominant 51-17 lead at halftime, led by 9 points apiece for Bibby and Rocci, with Bibby also picking up 5 rebounds and Rocci adding 4 assists.

A total of seven seconds of the third quarter was all it took for Rocci to add to the Gems’ lead from close range, and it wasn’t too long before Magbegor used her height and athleticism to earn a trip to the line and convert a pair of free throws. A spectacular reverse lay-up from Monique Conti made it six points in 90 seconds, and when Simons earned and converted a pair of free throws of her own, the Gems had suddenly scored 8 points without reply.

Australia’s scoring slowed slightly over the next couple of minutes, but the defence continued to be in lockdown mode, with Mexico’s first basket of the half coming almost four minutes in courtesy of a corner three from Carlota Martin del Campo. A second three came shortly after for the Mexican side, but with Rocci and Bibby each hitting open looks, the lead quickly approached the 50 point mark, and when Shelley found her way to the basket, the margin hit 73-23 and Mexico decided a timeout was necessary in an attempt to slow the Gems’ barrage of scoring.

Even with a number of starters enjoying an extended rest in the third quarter, the Australians continued to torment Mexico. Whilst their opponents were able to hit double figures in a quarter for the first time in the game in the third term, the Australians were simply dominant even with Magbegor off the court for all but a couple of minutes. A 33-10 quarter led by 7 points for Bibby delivered an 84-27 lead with a quarter to play as the Gems looked to continue their dominance.

A steal from Rowe and an offensive rebound from Maley within the first 40 seconds of the final term provided a microcosm of the game, with these facets of play being hallmarks of the Gems’ performance all afternoon. Despite this, the Gems were unable to add to their score for the first three minutes of the final term, and it was Mexico who finally opened the scoring on a mid range jumper with just over 7 minutes to play. Lara McSpadden quickly countered with a solid post move to earn and convert an and-one opportunity, atoning in part for a tough day at the free throw line for the Sydney Uni Flames center. Simons pulled up for a basket of her own shortly after, but the Gems’ offence was certainly found wanting, if not in the creation of chances, then certainly in the completion of those opportunities.

Simons came up with her second three of the game to remain perfect from beyond the arc, and take the team’s tally to 5/8 from three-point range, a vast improvement on the 1/20 mark they set against Japan. Mexico did a solid job of hanging with Australia in the final term, converting opportunities when they presented themselves, until the Gems hammered home their dominance in the final couple of minutes. Aokuso rebounded her own miss and dropped in the put back to take the Australian total into three figures, before Simons continued her day out with yet another three to extend the lead to 104-34.

Conti and Simons combined to add five more late points as the Gems completed a 109-34 drubbing to well and truly rebound from Saturday’s loss to Japan. Five players finished in double figures for the Australians, led by 17 points from Simons. Bibby was an efficient 5/7 from the field to tally 16 points as well as 6 rebounds, whilst Rocci added 14 points and 7 assists. Conti tallied 12 points and 5 assists, whilst Magbegor finished with 11 points and 7 rebounds in just 12 minutes of playing time. All 12 Gems players got on the score sheet, with every player seeing at least ten minutes of playing time, and the team total of 27 offensive rebounds was only two less than Mexico’s total rebound count for the game.

The Gems next take on Hungary who fell to Japan in their second game of the tournament. The winner of Australia versus Hungary will finish second in the group, with the game tipping off at 1o:00pm AEST on Tuesday, 25 August.

Box Score

Gems World Cup Schedule (all times AEST)

July 22: Australia lost to Japan 61-66 July 24: Australia defeated Mexico July 25: Australia vs Hungary at 10:00pm (watch live) July 26: Round of 16 July 28: Quarterfinals July 29: Semifinals July 30: Final