Opals through to quarter-finals with rout of Belarus
Australia has comfortably accounted for Belarus 87-45 to finish the group stage undefeated at the FIBA World Championships for Women, progressing directly to the quarter-finals stage and earning an extra day off in the process.
The Opals shot out of the blocks to take a commanding 15-4 lead inside the first four minutes on the back of early scoring from Rachel Jarry (six points) and Erin Phillips (five) as the Belarusians committed a string of early fouls.
A Belinda Snell three-pointer from the wing extended the lead to 21-6 midway through the term, with the score line reading 24-13 at the first break as Opals Coach Brendan Joyce went to his bench.
A slow start to the second term and a dubious offensive foul call on Penny Taylor saw Joyce hit with a technical foul as the Belarusians cut the margin to nine before the Opals took it up a gear.
Full court pressure by the Australians forced four straight turnovers out of a timeout as the margin grew past 20 points, with Belarus failing to score on nine consecutive possessions during the 11-0 Opals run.
Australia took a commanding 46-21 lead into the main break on the back of a game-high 14 points from Jarry, including a perfect 10-of-10 at the foul line, and some all-round brilliance from Phillips (7 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals).
Belarus started the second half with an 8-3 run but the Opals soon resumed control to blow the margin out to 30 points as their opponents racked up the fouls and the turnovers once more.
The Australians cruised into the final term with a commanding 65-32 lead as Penny Taylor came into the game after a slow start.
It only got worse for the Europeans in the final term as the Opals ran rampant, extending the lead past 40 points with four minutes to play before eventually running out 87-45 victors.
All twelve Opals found the bottom of the net, with Jarry (19 points, 3 steals) leading the way in a stellar performance, while WNBA pair Taylor (12 points, 4 rebounds) and Phillips (7 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists, 6 steals) steered their side superbly with relentless effort on both ends of the floor.
Yelena Leuchanka played a lone hand for Belarus, finishing with 12 points and 10 boards before coming out of the game as the clock wound down in a disappointing night for her country.
A 26-11 turnover count and 30-19 foul count, both in favour of the Australians, summed up the difference in class and composure between the sides, while two monster blocks from Phillips and Rebecca Allen, with the latter coming very late in the game, typifying their side’s relentless defensive intensity.
Australia will now progress to the quarter-finals and await their opponents, with the Czech Republicor Canada to meet the Opals in the final eight.
Belarus will face China in a cut-throat matchup, with the winner progressing to the final eight to face Spain for a place in the semi-finals.