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Opals make it two in a row, USA next
The Australian Opals have started their pre-Olympic campaign well with two straight convincing wins on US soil.
First, the Opals road a 29-13 opening term to earn a 13 point win over Canada. Brendan Joyce's team then backed it up to account for a 9 point win against reigning Olympic silver medalists France. Coach Joyce is justifiably happy with his side's performance on tour so far.
"I am very pleased with how we are progressing after beating two very good teams," said Joyce.
"I am happy with how we improved our game from when we last played France but there are still areas for improvement. We got a lot out of the match to improve upon before we meet again in Rio and we are starting to play well together offensively. Our team defense is also moving towards the same level we had at the 2014 World Championships."
The Opals dominated Canada in the first term and indeed the first half. Elizabeth Cambage imposed herself on the game, adding 8 points and 6 rebounds in the first period alone, while Phillips opened with 7 points as well.
After the blistering first period, both sides traded blows for the remainder of the game. Canada would go on to outscore Australia across the final three-quarters by 3 points, but the damage had already been done.
Penny Taylor was outstanding, stepping up in the third period in vintage style to deliver 11 points on 5/6 shooting (2/2 3PT). Taylor would go on to finish as the game's leading scorer with 19 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists. Taylor led 4 Opals in scoring double figures, with Cambage 16 points 8/10 FG), 7 rebounds and 2 blocks, while Erin Phillips and Leilani Mitchell both added 12 points each in the solid win.
Against the FIBA number 4 ranked French, it was the Opals big three of Taylor, Cambage and Phillips who stepped up to ensure Australia earned a well-deserved win. After an even first quarter, the Opals stepped it up in the second term behind their stifling defensive and efficient shooting. Cambage piled on 14 first half points, while Taylor had 10 of her own to see Australia outscore the French 24-9 for the term.
Australia continued to pile on the pressure to open the second half, with an 8-2 run sparked by two big triples to Phillips. With the game effectively over, the Opals continued to play well despite France finishing strongly. Never seriously challenge, the Opals would prevail by 9 points.
Phillips was outstanding, scoring a game-high 20 points on 8/10 shooting including a sizzling 4/5 from downtown alongside 5 assists. Cambage will be hard to stop in Rio, with the center delivering a 19 points and 10 rebound double-double. Taylor would round out the trio with 12 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists.
With two encouraging wins under their belt, the Opals next take on the might of Team USA at Madison Square Garden in what may well shape as a preview to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games gold medal game.
Opals USA Tour Schedule
Australia defeated Canada 80-67 | Box Score
Australia defeated France 76-67 | Box Score
Australia vs USA | 1 August: 6:00am AEST at Madison Square Garden, New York (NBA TV / ESPN AU/NZ)