Opals go down to Russia in physical affair
Sunday June 17, 2012
The Australian Opals have gone down to basketball powerhouse Russia overnight, losing in a tight and hard-fought match-up 60-51.
In a game that saw the Aussies rest Jackson but play the remaining 14 players vying for spots in the final 12 for London, and with the Russians playing a massive 18 players, both coaches clearly were keen to give all players a taste of what hard-fought international basketball at the highest level was all about.
It was evident that this was going to be an extremely physical game from the outset, with both sides going point-for-point in the first quarter with Russia taking a slender 18-17 lead into quarter time.
Both teams defended exceptionally well and this was taken up a notch in the second term, making scores tough to come by. Hodges dropped a pair of tough buckets and a three-point play from Erin Phillips kept the Opals’ score-board ticking over, bringing the scores back to level going into half time.
The third quarter was a disastrous one for the Opals offensively. Struggling to score from mid- and long-range, this also started to have an impact on their ability to finish around to the basket.
Although only able to add just four points to their tally for the period, their defense however continued to stifle and frustrate the Russians, who only added 12 for the third themselves, only a couple of offensive boards and a costly turnover by the Aussies handing Russia an eight-point lead going into the final quarter.
Although reachable, the way this game was being played was always going to make a fight-back hard for the Opals. Both teams were able to score more freely in the final quarter however, with Russia edging out the Aussies for the term 20-19 to snatch the nine-point victory 60-51.
For the Opals, Suzy Batkovic was strong at both ends of the floor and showed her international experience against the long and physical Russians finishing with 10 points and nine rebounds, while Liz Cambage finished with nine points.
For the Russians, they enjoyed an even spread of scorers led by Marina Kuzina who finished with nine points.
With Jackson rested, the size advantage certainly went to the Russians, with the Aussies shooting just 27 per cent from the floor across the game while connecting on just one of 12 three-point attempts.
“Defensively, to hold a world power in basketball like Russia to only 60 points is a great team effort — we did a solid job there,” said head coach of the Opals Carrie Graf.
“But you are not going to beat many international teams with the shooting percentage that we had tonight. That is an area we will need to improve on. We are looking forward to the match tomorrow then head back to Australia for the Farewell Series,” she said.
“There are some positives out of tonight, and we have time to re-look at the tape and make some adjustments then have another crack at them tomorrow,” said Opals veteran Suzy Batkovic.
“We will take a lot out of both these matches as we move forward to the Olympics. It is exciting,” she said.
The Opals play Game Two of the friendly series against Russia tomorrow evening at 7pm local Italy time.
Russia 60 (Kuzina 9)
Australian Opals 51 (Batkovic 10, Cambage 9)
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