Rebounding dominance key in Gems' victory over Hungary

Defense and rebounding kept the Gems ahead in the first half against Hungary, before the offence got on more of a roll in the second half to secure a 75-51 victory in the team's final pool game of the FIBA Under 19 World Cup.

Four players finished in double figures, led by Ezi Magbegor’s 18 points and 10 rebound performance, while the Gems finished with a remarkable 29 offensive rebounds in their total of 53 to dominate the boards.

Australia got off to a flyer, with some outstanding aggressive defense allowing Hungary absolutely nothing in the early stages. Using their length to their advantage, the Gems shut down Hungary for the first three minutes of the game, establishing an 8-2 lead in the process.

The Hungarians were not to be denied for the entire quarter though. The Gems’ scoring dried up for a full three minutes as even open looks failed to fall, and it was only continued defensive pressure and outstanding rebounding that ensured they held their lead until Kiera Rowe settled things with a three to take the score to 11-6.

The final few minutes saw the Gems able to get to the line on multiple occasions, with the final five points of the quarter coming through free throws as Rowe, Monique Conti and Zitina Aokuso all managed to get the better of the Hungarian defense. With a much improved showing at the line in comparison to their 65% mark across the previous two games, Australia were able to take an 18-8 lead into the first break.

The Hungarian side hit back in the second quarter, with an improved offensive effort coming just as the Gems’ shooting percentage fell away. Hungary managed to score the first seven points of the quarter, with the Australians not adding to their score until a three from Bibby four minutes into the term. Magbegor quickly added to the tally from close range, and when Abby Cubillo was fouled shooting a three and completed a perfect trip to the charity stripe, the Gems had extended their lead to 26-15. However, Hungary had shown enough in the opening stages of the quarter to predict that they would hit back again, and they did so effectively enough to trim the margin to 30-25 by halftime, with the Australians shooting just 22% for the half.

The second half started far more promisingly on offence for the Australians, with Shelley and Bibby each knocking down early threes as the Gems extended their lead out to double digits in quick time. Despite a timeout from Hungary, the Australian defense remained disruptive, with the length of Magbegor providing troubles for a Hungarian team with only one player over 190cm.

With the Australians dominating the glass at both ends, Hungary were going to have to shoot at an impressively high clip to keep the scoreboard ticking over, as second chance opportunities would be hard to come by. A couple of defensive stops saw Hungary trim the lead to 49-38, but Lara McSpadden and Aokuso, like Magbegor before them, disrupted the Hungarians around the rim to ensure there would be very few easy points.

Magbegor demonstrated the Australians’ height advantage marvelously as the quarter wound down, grabbing her own miss for her fifth offensive rebound and the team’s 24th before nailing the put back to put the Gems up 13. The quarter ended on a nice-looking three from Bibby which was unfortunately released just after the buzzer, leaving the Gems up 52-40 with ten minutes to play and second place in the group looking fairly safe.

The Australians kept the roll on as Maddison Rocci and then Cubillo earned trips to the line, with all four resulting free throws converted. Anneli Maley extended the run to 6-0 to start the quarter before Reka Lelik earned a trip to the line driving to the basket in transition. However, the Hungarian point guard missed both and their scoring drought continued.

At the other end, the Gems continued to exploit their height advantage. Magbegor dropped in a couple of baskets, receiving the ball in what, against taller, more physical players may have been difficult positions. However, the defense was no match for the Canberra Capitals recruit, who moved to the basket with aplomb as the Gems extended their lead to 20 with a dominant opening to the final term.

A couple of late defensive lapses from the Gems allowed Hungary a couple of close looks, but in what had become the story of the fourth quarter, the shots just didn’t fall. In any case, the Australians had well and truly wrapped up the victory by the final minutes, and a last second three from Maley tied a bow on a 75-51 victory to see the Gems finish second in Pool A and potentially secure a reasonably favourable passage through the knockout rounds, even in spite of their first-up loss to Japan.

Magbegor led all scorers with 18 points and also picked up 10 rebounds to complete a dominant double-double, with three more Australians tallying double figures for points. Bibby finished with 12 points and 8 rebounds, while Shelley also added 12 points alongside 5 assists. Rocci was outstanding from the line, hitting a perfect 7 from 7 as part of her 11 points. Maley was strong on the glass again, collecting 10 rebounds alongside 4 points.

The offence was a story of two halves for the Gems though, shooting 22% in the first half and in excess of 40% in the second.

Australia progressed to the Round of 16 where they have been drawn to play against Latvia early on Thursday morning (12:15am AEST). Latvia finished third in Group C behind Canada and France. The winner of Russia versus Mali contest will await the winner, with undefeated Canada and China possible semifinal opponents for the side the progresses.

The Pick and Roll will be streaming the Gems' contest against Latvia live with commentary via Facebook from 12:15am AEST.

Box Score

Gems World Cup Schedule (all times AEST)

July 22: Australia lost to Japan 61-66 July 24: Australia defeated Mexico 104-34 July 25: Australia defeated Hungary 75-51 July 27: Australia vs Latvia 12:15am AEST (Watch Live) July 28: Quarterfinals July 29: Semifinals July 30: Final