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Hot-shooting Japan torches Opals 91-66 in Asia Cup basketball

Anneli Maley and the Opals found the going tough against Japan in the Asian Cup on Wednesday.

Anneli Maley and the Opals found the going tough against Japan in the Asian Cup on Wednesday. Photo: AAP

Australia’s hopes of a first FIBA women’s Asia Cup basketball title have nose-dived after it was thumped  91-66 by a hot-shooting Japan in Sydney.

Coming off two big wins, the Opals scored the first eight points and were up 15-6 on Wednesday, but Japan took control of the game after an extraordinary second-quarter surge.

Japan scored the last 17 points of that quarter and Australia missed its last 13 attempts from the field.

The Opals were outscored 22-2 in the last seven-and-a-half minutes, with Japan nailing six three-pointers over that time as they turned an eight-point deficit into a 44-32 halftime lead.

Australia couldn’t get the deficit below nine in the second half, with Japan pulling away to lead by 19 at three-quarter time and by as much as 30 in the fourth.

Japan hit 17 three-pointers at 51 per cent and shot 54 per cent overall from the field, while keeping Australia to just 39 per cent.

The Opals had just two double-digit scorers, Maddison Rocci with 12 and Alice Kunek 11, as Australia struggled to deal with Japan’s pressure, slick transition game and long-range shooting.

Japan, which has won the past five Asia Cups, took top spot in the group and booked a semi-final spot.

Australia will have to take the longer route to the last four, needing to win a classification match against Korea on Friday to face Group B winner China, which finished with a 3-0 record after a  87-81 overtime win over Korea.

“Japan turned up the pressure in that second quarter. We were a bit stunned when they started hitting all those threes and next game we need to be way better at regrouping a lot quicker,” Opals captain Tess Madgen said.

Australia’s height advantage didn’t translate into dominance on the boards as they were out-rebounded 33-31 and also made four more turnovers than Japan.

“As the game went on, they ground us down with their pressure and physicality,” Opals acting head coach Shannon Seebohm said.

“They controlled the boards and we probably just weren’t disciplined enough on defence to get enough stops and generate any easy points out of our transition game.”

The Opals burst out of the blocks, scoring the first eight points, with Darcee Garbin notching five inside the first minute, while Japan missed its first four field goal attempts.

Mai Yamamoto triggered Japan’s comeback with four second-quarter triples, finishing with 19 points, one behind.Monica Okoye.

In another match, Australian-born guard and Australian age-group representative Tahlia Tupaea scored 20 for New Zealand in its 76-45 win over Lebanon.

The victor of Friday’s match between the Tall Ferns and the Philippines, which beat Taiwan 92-81 on Wednesday, will face Japan in the semi-finals.

-AAP

Topics: Japan, Opals
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