The Opals shook off the frustrations of their first-up loss to France with this vicious win over Puerto Rico fewer than 48 hours later, as Liz Cambage continued her stellar vein of form.
On her way to a game-high 31 points, Cambage was the feature of the Opals’ cohesive offence, fed consistently inside by the likes of Leilani Mitchell and working in magnificent combination with Ezi Magbegor. Australia opened the match with a 13-4 run and didn’t look back.
When Mitchell made her second three-pointer of the game with a little over two minutes to play in the first half, Australia had opened up a 22-point lead (49-27) against a flustered Puerto Rico.
With 21 of Puerto Rico’s 39 first-half points, Jazmon Gwathmey – whose basketball journey has seen her represent the WNBA’s San Antonio Stars and WNBL’s UC Capitals – was fronting a one-woman show. Without her, it certainly would have been ugly.
Australia’s Magbegor played a far more significant role here against Puerto Rico than in the opener against France, and the young Opals forward adds another dimension when on-song. She scored 15 points on an efficient 6/9 shooting.
Cayla George displayed a similarly deft touch around the rim, with her 11 points coming from 4/11 shooting and including one long-range three. George also boasted a team-high 8 rebounds.
Coach Sandy Brondello would have been happy with the marked improvement in the Opals’ ball movement, as they will now be heavily favoured to dispatch of Brazil and secure a spot in Tokyo.
Puerto Rico’s bid to qualify for their first Olympic games took another shocking blow when Dayshalee Salaman went down in the third quarter with what may be a long-term knee injury.
Australia will qualify with a victory over Brazil in their final pool game, but could also make it through with a loss and a Puerto Rican defeat to France.
AUSTRALIA 100 (Liz Cambage 31, Ezi Magbegor 15, Bec Allen 12)
PUERTO RICO 74 (Jazmon Gwathmey 30, Jennifer O’Neil 14, Pamela Rosada 12)