Senegal awaits Australia in their second Group H contest at the 2019 FIBA World Cup in Dongguan, China, with a victory all but securing the Boomers a top two position and guaranteed passage through to the next round.
The next two games are critical for the Boomers. While Senegal is up next, Lithuania is looming as the most likely challenger in the fight for top place Group H, and importantly carry an unblemished record through to the next stage.
While Australia used a blistering final term to overrun Canada 108-92 to get their campaign for a first ever World Cup medal off to an ideal start, Senegal were clinically crushed 101-47 by the Boomers' arch-rivals Lithuania.
Unlike the structured, disciplined Canadians who are guided by 2019 NBA championship winning head coach Nick Nurse, Senegal feature long, raw athletes that struggle to execute in the half court. They prefer to use their athleticism to force turnovers, excelling in the open court. However Lithuania slowed the game down and executed their offensive sets with near-perfection, and Senegal struggled to adjust.
Lithuania took care of the ball, giving up just 10 turnovers for the entire game, and only giving up 10 fast break points. While the Europeans have up 15 offensive rebounds, Senegal only scored 8 second chance points for the game, 1 less that Lithuania.
Senegal were poor offensively, shooting a horrible 1 of 23 from beyond the three point arc (4.3%), the worst performance since the 1994 World Cup. While Australia cannot expect Senegal to shoot that badly again, they can learn from Lithuania to ensure there is no scare.
They need to take better care of the ball after giving up 10 turnovers in the first half against Canada, although they did show good improvement in the fourth period, not giving way the ball once as they powered away.
While it is still premature to look too far ahead, it is hard to ignore Lithuania who were devastating against the Africans. It will be interesting to see how they follow up in their next game against Canada, a team that is more than capable of taking it up to their European foes. A win for Canada over Lithuania and an Australian loss to Lithuania would possibly see a three-way tie - something that would require a points split between the three teams.
However it looks like the battle for top place will take place in the last Group H game between the Boomers and Lithuania - revisiting the long-standing rivalry between the two nations.
Beyond the first stage, the second stage will see the top two teams join with the best two teams from Group G which features France, Germany, Dominican Republic and Jordan. Their opening stage records will carry through to the next round.
France took down Germany by just 4 points in their opening game, while the Dominican Republic edged Jordan by the same margin. France is now in the box seat to advance with the undefeated record, while the game between Germany and the Dominicans should determine who will finish second. It is hard to look past the two European powerhouses emerging as the top two teams, and Australia's next two opponents beyond Group H. Only the top 2 teams from Group L will advance to the quarterfinals.
With the likelihood that France and Germany will await the top two teams of Group H, the importance of carrying an unblemished record through to the next round will not be lost on the Boomers, or Lithuania.
The Australian Boomers play Senegal next in the group stage, on 3 Sep 2019, Tuesday at 5:30pm AEST. For Australian fans, the Boomers’ run in the 2019 FIBA World Cup can be viewed on Kayo Sports and Foxtel.
Australian Boomers schedule for 2019 FIBA World Cup (AEST)
September 3: Boomers vs. Senegal, 5:30pm
September 5: Boomers vs. Lithuania, 9:30pm
September 7 & 9: Round of 16
September 10 & 11: Quarter-Finals
September 13: Semi-Finals
September 15: Medal Games