Opals were unable to start their campaign in the FIBA Women’s World Cup 2022 with a winning score, as last night fell to France 70-57 in a match that showed Opals had work to do – especially on the offensive end – to compete against the best. difference in the world.
In what was a packed Sydney superdome with a turnout of 9,291 Australian fans were out on the verge of hoping to see Opals win, but French superstar Gabe Williams had other ideas.
The pitch erupted when legend Lauren Jackson first entered the game, and the 41-year-old – who last played for Australia nine years ago – surely gave Australia some good minutes in the first half and late in the fourth quarter. .
Although Opals stayed within striking distance of France for the first three quarters, it was Australia’s struggles in attack that ultimately squandered their hopes of winning a comeback.
The Opals’ inability to strike meant their defense could only keep them afloat for so long, and eventually France went over the top as Williams sunk a hat-trick in the last two minutes to finish the game with 23 points on 67 points. Percent of shooting is from the field.
While Williams was an economist, Australia was not anyway. Opals delivered only 26 percent of shots from the field and 21.7 percent from depth. Paying numbers like this and a total of 57 points simply won’t get the job done at the World Cup.
Sharpshooter Bec Allen will be key to everything Australia does in this tournament, but she will need her teammates to help share the burden on attack.
The only Opal to score in double digits, Allen (16 points, 4 rebounds) kept the scoreboard off early in the game, but with France’s defense increasing in intensity, Australia’s attack couldn’t handle the pressure and turnovers escalated quickly.
You’d be forgiven for thinking Australia doesn’t boast a group of great bowlers after last night’s performance, but that’s not the case.
The likes of Sami Whitcomb, Steph Talbot, and Darcee Garbin are all world-class shooters from the depths, but they haven’t hit a single triple in the game, achieving a total of 0/10 from long range. This marked Australia night, as the players couldn’t make the most of what are usually their strengths on the court, and Ezi Magbegor also struggled to finish the basket.
Many of the spins in Australia were the result of contact errors and lazy ball handling, and as spins began to take effect, the opals went back into their shells and the ball movement was close to nonexistent.
Opals need to get the ball into the hands of shooters who go off screens, not rely on them to constantly create their own shot as the clock approaches.
Alarmingly, this game had a similar feel to the offensive end of the Tokyo Olympics campaign as Opals couldn’t do anything offensively for most of the tournament and finished ninth overall.
The good news is that despite all the offensive issues, there were real positives to take out of this game that Australia can build on, especially as they face a much lower-ranked opponent, Mali, tonight.
Perhaps the biggest positive was that for large parts of the match, Australia’s defense was solid. It was a defensive battle for most of the match, and Steve Talbot drove Australia at that end off the floor with all-out effort and hustle.
Coach Sandy Brundillo will have a lot to think about in terms of rotation going forward. And Kristi Wallace and Mariana Tullo’s play – who were used sparingly – ensured more court time for both. Wallace is one of Australia’s best perimeter defenders, and her dogged stance of not giving up play and harassing opposing guards to the point of utter frustration should be better utilized.
Her defensive work is considered elite, but by giving her more responsibility for handling the ball it will help release the brilliance of Whitcombe’s shooting, who was tied up for much of the night with Australia’s attack running off the top of the key.
Having played just over two minutes into the first half of the game, Tolo came into her own in the third quarter and did what she has consistently done for opals over the course of her career; Fight and scrap in order to improve the team.
Her third quarter changed the momentum of the game. She was called up and scored a quick goal, before helping force France into a spin and then make three attempts within seconds that ended with one play that put the raucous Australian crowd on their feet.
Sometimes, opals lacked this maniacal attack but under control attack. It’s a great streak to walk, especially in the opening game of the World Cup on home soil when the adrenaline is pumping, but the player who can add so much value in this aspect of the game is Anneli Mali.
The only Opal that didn’t see time on the court last night, the ruling WNBL MVP would stop at nothing to grab an offensive bounce, dive for a loose ball and create energy on both ends of the field. Injecting it into a spin would give Australia more versatility on the offensive end.
While it was far from the perfect opening for an Opal World Cup campaign, it certainly isn’t all gloomy and gloomy. France – ranked sixth in the world – is a very good team and will upset a lot of opponents throughout this tournament, but Opals need to handle defensive pressure better.
They also need to hit more shots, which they should do if they take care of the ball.
The encounter with Mali – which ranks 37th in the world – presents a golden opportunity for Opal to step back and generate some momentum as the tournament really begins.