Thursday, September 16

USA is too good for Australia with no signs of end of Olympic basketball streak | Tokyo 2020 Olympics


The United States has drawn blood for the first time in the first of three meetings with Australia in two sports at the Tokyo Games this week. Team USA’s historic undefeated streak in women’s Olympic basketball continued on Wednesday, as the Americans beat the Opals in their quarterfinal clash.

The defending champions have won the last five Olympic gold medals and have not lost in more than 50 games at the Games, while the Australians only narrowly qualified for the knockout round after losing their first two matches in Tokyo. The Opals are three-time Olympic silver medalists, but have now failed to advance to the medal rounds on two consecutive occasions.

Team USA’s sweeping victory, 79-55, gives the nation an early lead as the two sporting rivals meet three times in just over 24 hours. The men’s basketball teams will meet in the semifinals on Thursday afternoon, before the Matildas take on the World Cup-winning American women’s team in the bronze medal soccer game on Thursday night.

At Saitama Super Arena, it was clear from the beginning of the first quarter that the Australians would face an uphill battle to defeat their longtime enemies. A 14-1 streak by the Americans midway through the first saw the Opals lose by double digits at the first break.

Leilani Mitchell led a comeback in the second quarter, with several three-point shots, but the Opals’ defensive weaknesses led Team USA to increase its lead at the halftime break. Brittney Griner and Breanna Stewart were a potent offensive combination for the Americans, scoring nearly 40 points between them.

While the Opals rallied in the second half and even won the fourth quarter on the scoreboard, it was too little, too late. The Americans remain undefeated and consolidate their position as the big favorite to win the gold medal.

The United States will face Serbia on Friday for a place in the deciding match and Sue Bird expressed respect for her European opponents.

“We played Serbia relatively recently, in Serbia; whatever the year, it was 2020, which feels like 10 years ago,” Bird said. “They’re hard. In fact, we were talking about it before. Everyone who played abroad always had a Serbian on their team. You always had a baller on your team, and he was a Serbian player. They just know how to play basketball, they know how to play basketball. “

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Sara Blicavs of Australia said after the loss: “We had absolutely nothing to lose today and it didn’t turn out the way we wanted. I think it was not our best tournament, but I think we also have a lot to come back and learn from ”.

The Opals’ preparations for the tournament were interrupted with the late retirement of star player Liz Cambage, who withdrew citing mental health issues and the Tokyo Olympic bubble environment.

“We really didn’t have a good preparation just with the drama and the things that were happening before and then obviously Liz who is arguably the best pole player in the world, all of a sudden she’s not here with us when we have built our system around. her, ”Mitchell said. “So obviously we had to make a lot of adjustments in a few days, and it really didn’t work out for us.”

But Mitchell praised his young teammate Ezi Magbegor, who made his Olympic debut in Tokyo. “Ezi is going to be the future of the Opals,” he said. “I thought he had a good season, but to be honest, it can be a lot better. There are many things you can improve upon, just to make you a dominant force. So the future is bright in that sense. “

The Australians’ 55 points were their lowest Olympics score since the 2000 Sydney Games, when the Opals lost to Team USA at home in the gold medal clash. They will have to regroup before the 2022 Fiba Women’s World Cup, to be held in Australia.


www.theguardian.com

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