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Opals crush Korea to bring home Asia Cup bronze
Australia have won bronze at the 2019 FIBA Asia Cup in Bengaluru, India, leading from start to finish to register a crushing 98-62 win over Korea.
The victory is consolation after being undone by Japan in their semi final match-up, and comes after they won silver at the event 2 years ago.
Bec Allen led from the front, scoring a game-high 20 points on 7 of 10 shooting which included 4 of 6 from beyond the three-point line. Australia as a team shot a scintillating 13 of 26 from long distance, with 5 players scoring in double figures and all but Leilani Mitchell finding the bottom of the net. Allen would go on to be named to the tournament's All-Star Five.
Back to back blocks by Bec Allen and then Ezi Magbegor thwarted Korea's early forays into the paint. Magbegor then converted a three-point play on the next possession, drawing a second foul on Hyeyoon Bae inside the opening 2 minutes. Magbegor would score the next basket, before Korea scored their first on a drive.
Then Australia went on a 10-0 run, sparked by a triple in the corner from Allen, and capped by another from Katie Ebzery to force a timeout. Garbin would pull down an offensive rebound and be fouled on the successful put-back. After Garbin mad the free throw, Korea broke their scoring drought at the other end.
Australia earned multiple more scoring opportunities inside, however were not able to capitalise on many of them. Despite that, their defence was holding up well, enabling them to take a 24-9 first term lead.
Two consecutive baskets by Australia was followed by a Cayla George hitting a transition three to have the Koreans trailing by 24 and threatened with a blowout. Both sides traded baskets until Nicole Seekamp hit a wide open triple from the left corner to push the margin out to a game-high 27 points. O'Hea and then Steph Talbot followed up with triples of their own from exactly the same corner to extend the lead to 29 points at the half time break.
Against Korea's 3-2 zone, Australia moved the ball exceptionally well and made the Koreans pay with every Opal barring Leilani Mitchell hitting the scoreboard. They dished out 17 first half assists and shot 7 of 15 from beyond the three-point line. Their defense was very good too, forcing their opponents in 14 turnovers and just 23.8% shooting from the field.
Korean threatened to make inroads into the margin at the start if the third period, draining a three and then a long two to cut the margin to 24. Abby Bishop picked up her fourth foul in 4 minutes and immediately returned to the bench. Allen then made a three to settle things for the Opals. Garbin, who was helping keep the scoring ticking over, tracked down her own miss to feed Allen for another triple. A lazy turnover passing in the ball after a made three by Korea, allowed the Opals opponents to close out on a 5-0 run and maintain the half time margin at 29.
The Opals opened with the first 4 points of the final term to all but put the result beyond a double. Lauren Nicholson was fouled shooting a three, and made all the free throws. When Magbegor was re-inserted into the game, she caused issues for the Koreans at both ends.
Allen continued to fire on all cylinders, draining and triple and then a jumper soon after. Bishop followed up with a triple of her own to push out the margin to 44 points. Korea then made it rain from downtown themselves, connecting on three long-range bombs as they attempted to make the scoreline look respectable. However the Opals would complete a commanding victory, running out winners by 36 points.
To go with her 20 points, Allen also added 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks in a brilliant all-round performance. Garbin contributed 13 points with 5 rebounds, while Magbegor and Ebzery chimed in with 11 points each.
Australia shot 53.3% from inside the arc and 50% beyond it, while they restricted Korea to 38.1% from the field overall. Australia's good ball movement against the zone paid off with 34 assists, while they outscored their opponents 36-10 in the paint.
Allen capped off her tournament by being named to the All-Star Five. The New York Liberty star finished the tournament averaging 11.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.7 steals in just 19.7 minutes per game, shooting 45.5% from three-point territory.
“It’s always a great thing to be recognised, I think it’s an honour to get the award, I’m really happy to get it. At the same time, it’s a team game, the only way that I can get the ball to score is because of my teammates,” Allen said after the Opals win over Korea.
The Opals will now look ahead to the Asia-Oceania Pre-Qualifiers for the 2020 Olympic Qualifying Tournament which will be played from November 14-17 at a location to be announced next week. Australia have been drawn with rivals Japan, but also Chinese Taipei and India in Group B, with China, Korea, New Zealand and Philippines drawn in Group A. The eight teams will compete for just four spots at the FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournaments 2020 in February next year.
Opals FIBA Asia Cup schedule
24 September: Opals defeated Philippines 123-57
25 September: Opals defeated New Zealand 82-44
26 September: Opals lost to China 70-69
27 September: Quarter Final - Australia defeated Chinese Taipei 90-51
28 September: Semi Final - Australia lost to Japan 76-64
29 September: Bronze Medal - Australia defeated Korea 98-62