Opals rookies power Asian Cup debut win
The Australian Opals have made a successful FIBA Asian Cup debut in Bangalore, India with a convincing 78-54 victory over Korea.
It was Opals rookies Kelsey Griffin and Alanna Smith who helped power the Opals to a strong opening win. Griffin led all scorers in providing 15 points (5-of-10 FG) and 5 rebounds, while Stanford's Smith piled on 13 points (4-of-5 FG) with 7 rebounds in an encouraging display by the rising star. Veteran Belinda Snell also provided a scoring spark in winding back the clock, draining three triples in adding 11 points and 7 rebounds in the 24-point win.
Snell got going with two early three-pointers to put the Opals out in front. Steph Blicavs joined in on the action beyond the arc to put Australia in front 9-3. However in a closely contested opening first term, it was the Koreans who took an early 2-point advantage at the first break as they used their speed to find ways into the paint offensively.
Following Smith's injection into the game in the second term, she would follow some strong offensive plays by Marianna Tolo to score her first basket. From that point forward, the Opals never trailed again. Smith would follow-up soon after with a three-pointer, while Griffin was in the thick of the action with a nice lay-up. When Sara Blicavs scored late in the term, the Opals had opened up a commanding 15-point half time lead.
Another Opals rookie in Lauren Mansfield was doing a great job of running the offense (5 assists), as she also opened the scoring in the second half. Offensive fouls by both sides saw the scoring slow down momentarily. Maddie Garrick (10 points, 4-of-5 FG) then scored 7 of the Opals next 9 points as Australia continued to pull away from the Koreans. Smith then followed with the successful and-one to push the margin out to 25 and with the Opals in total control. While the Koreans made a mini-run at the Opals late in the period, Australia entered the final change leading by an imposing 21 points.
Katie-Rae Ebzery was playing strongly in setting up her team mates (4 assists), and with the lead remaining beyond 20 points, the Opals were able to provide valuable minutes to the entire squad with everyone scoring except for captain Laura Hodges. With fresh legs rotated throughout, the Opals played out the game strongly to win by 24 points.
With the Koreans were more efficient from beyond the arc (41% to 31%), Australia dished out 17 assists to 5 and dominated in the paint at both ends. The Opals pulled down 46 rebounds to 32, and scored 22 more points in the paint compared to their opponents.
Australia return to the court on 24 August when they face the Philippines at 5:45pm AEST. The Philippines opened their tournament with a devastating 55-106 capitulation to Japan and will find no respite from an imposing Opals side aiming for World Cup qualification.
Australia 78: Griffin 15 points & 7 rebounds, Smith 13 points & 7 rebounds, Snell 11 points & 7 rebounds, Garrick 10 points, Mansfield 6 points, 5 assists & 2 steals Korea 54: Sim 11 points, J Park 10 points & 8 rebounds, Bae 8 points