The Seven Consulting Opals have recorded back-to-back victories with a strong defensive performance over a tough Serbian side.
A pumped-up Australian side displayed some of their best basketball of the tournament in front of 9,329 vocal fans at Sydney SuperDome, to take a reassuring 69-54 win over Serbia.
Australia’s Bec Allen led the way with a player of the match performance posting 16 points, five rebounds, two steals and two huge blocks. Marianna Tolo started her first game of the tournament to finish with 12 points. Serbia’s Yvonne Anderson was on fire in the first half with 14 points, finishing with 16 and seven rebounds, six assists and two steals.
In the first half, Australia showed grit and intent, forcing Serbia into six-shot clock violations and found their flow at both ends of the floor.
As the Australians continued to limit Anderson’s attempts, Serbia struggled to score throughout the second half under the smothering defence.
The Seven Consulting Opals finished with four players in double digits; Lauren Jackson not far behind on nine points. In the final minutes of the game, Allen left the court with injury in the only blow to an impressive Seven Consulting Opals outing.
Steph Talbot was pleased to see Australia take a win over the strong Serbian side, having gone down to them in the February Qualifying Tournament.
“I think we came out and wanted to make a stance on how we want to play and how we want to play the rest of this tournament”, said Talbot. “We did that in the first half where they had a handful of 24-second shot clock violations and that’s how we want to play. We need to take that forward into the next game.”
Seven Consulting Opals’ Head Coach Sandy Brondello praised Talbot for leading the team defensively.
“Steph did a really good job on Anderson,” said Brondello. “It’s good that she stayed on court today. She is one of the best defenders no matter where she plays. She is our defensive anchor, and it really starts with her and her energy. Serbia has a good team and holding them to 54 points is a good effort.”
Disappointed about Allen’s potential rib injury, Brondello added: “I think she got crushed and got hit, it would be really unfortunate if she doesn’t play.”
Serbian Head Coach Marina Maljkovic knows her side has more work to do to go further into the tournament.
“We had some very nice moments coming from our young and experienced players, but we also had a lot of mistakes,” said Maljkovic. “We have yet to reach the point where we play for 40 minutes, and we must do that in the next two games. We will do the best we can. In this type of tournament, you must think from game to game.”
Maljkovic also noted the impact of the intense schedule on all players at the tournament.
“The schedule this year is very complicated,” Maljkovic noted. “The quality is great basketball, that’s why I feel sad. That we can’t see players at their best at the moment because of a very tight schedule.”