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Bec Allen injured as Opals outmuscle Serbia 69-54 at World Cup

Australia has beaten Serbia 69-54 in their Group B game at the FIBA Women's World Cup in Sydney.

Australia has beaten Serbia 69-54 in their Group B game at the FIBA Women's World Cup in Sydney. Photo: AAP

Australia’s Opals have produced their most impressive performance of the FIBA Women’s World Cup, defeating Serbia 69-54 and avenging a fiery loss from the qualifying tournament.

But victory may have come at a cost when paramedics attended to Bec Allen after she was assisted from the court while struggling to breathe in the final minutes.

Allen first left the court with an ankle injury in the final quarter but needed to be assisted off again just minutes later when she reeled out of a contest for the ball, clutching her side.

Allen led all scorers for Australia with 16 points and was among their best players against France on opening night.

Australia and Serbia have developed an unlikely rivalry in recent years.

The Serbs denied the Opals a shot at a sixth straight Olympic medal with a quarter-final win at the Rio Games.

They also defeated the Opals on the road to the World Cup after Australia’s Steph Talbot was ejected for elbowing Jovona Nogic.

There was plenty of feeling in Sunday’s rematch at Qudos Bank Arena, not least when guard Sami Whitcomb copped an arm to the face in the third quarter and left the court claiming her nose had been broken.

The Australians were determined to get the wood over their rivals this time, lest they slip behind in the race to advance from the competitive Group B.

The Opals’ early dominance came down to physical defence as Australia forced Serbia into five shot-clock violations in the first quarter and kept them to 10 points.

Serbia began to fight back in the second quarter when Yvonne Anderson had her minutes increased and finished the half with 14 points.

Fittingly, Talbot played a significant role in the Australian atonement, restricting Anderson to two second-half points when she was sent to mark the Serb.

With the ball, Talbot hit a three-pointer in the second quarter to give Australia what was then a game-high lead and she finished with 10 points.

Serbia found another strike weapon in Sasa Cado (12 points) but the Opals had their own avenues to basket in Allen, Marianna Tolo and Whitcomb, who hit a three-pointer less than 30 seconds after coming back on from her hit to the nose.

The Opals are now 2-1 and if they win their final two games of the group stage, against Canada and Japan, are all but certain to dodge a quarter-final meeting with red-hot tournament favourites, USA.

Earlier, France posted an unconvincing 74-59 defeat of Mali, whose knack for pulling down rebounds gave it the lead at quarter-time.

Touted as a WNBA prospect, Sika Kone finished with 18 rebounds, just shy of the World Cup record of 19.

The loss was Mali’s third of the tournament and effectively ruled it out of progressing to the knockout stage.

-AAP

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