Written by Megan Hustwaite.
The Australian Boomers will face the USA in the semi-finals of the Tokyo Olympics after accounting for Argentina in Tuesday night’s quarter final.
The Boomers trailed by eight points early in the first quarter before tightening their defence and ultimately suffocating the Argentine’s offence to storm home to a resounding 97-59 victory.
Coach Brian Goorjian played every Boomer in the cut-throat final, with 11 players hitting the scoreboard, as Australia piled on 58-26 points in the second half.
Australia now face the three-time defending gold medallists on Thursday afternoon (2.15pm AEST) and is now a step closer to winning an historic first-ever Olympic medal.
Veteran Joe Ingles praised the Boomers team performance with focus now turning to their next assignment.
“We’ve had one goal in mind, to win a gold medal and leave here with that, and this is a little bit of a stepping stone to what we want to achieve,’’ he said post-game.
“We’ve got a couple more games now, we’ll rest up, recover and watch the film and we’re obviously well aware of who we’re against (USA). They’ll have a couple of new players from the last time we played them in the exhibition game.
“The biggest thing for us now is the recovery side of it. It’s the first time we have a two-day break in this tournament so we’ll get some rest and get ready for them.”
Australia’s stat sheet was a pretty sight topped by captain Patty Mills (18 points, 4 assists), an influential all-round game by Matisse Thybulle (12 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists) and crucial contributions by Jock Landale (12 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists), Ingles (11 points, 7 assists) and a Nick Kay (10 points, 10 rebounds) double-double.
Earlier, a Matthew Dellavedova triple got Australia underway but Argentina would score the next seven points while the Boomers missed five straight shots.
Argentina played at a nice early pace and shared the ball around as it built a game-high eight-point buffer.
An answering Ingles triple trimmed the margin, the Boomers conjuring 10 points from Mills and Thybulle but trailed 22-18 at quarter time.
Strong, improved defence proved pivotal in the second term as the Boomers turned a four-point deficit into a six-point advantage at half time.
Australia put the clamps on the Argentines restricting them to just 11 points while adding 21 of its own.
Thybulle, again adding valuable impact and energetic minutes off the bench, got scoring going before Chris Goulding, oozing composure, knocked down a three to level the scores.
Experienced heads Mills, moving into double figures for the game, and Ingles found their rhythm as the Boomers went with a small line-up for long periods and stretched their lead to a game-high nine points.
The win-or-go-home final featured a see-sawing third term where Argentina would several times get within six points with some big shots from deep but the Boomers, through their captain, Dante Exum (9 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists) and Landale had all the answers. Australia led by a game-high 12 points at three quarter time, 60-48.
Exum’s brilliant two-handed dunk in the opening seconds of the last term was a game-highlight and a sign of things to come as the Boomers romped to victory and had the luxury of resting starters and getting solid minutes into the bench.
Australia 97 (Mills 18 points, Thybulle 12, Landale 12) defeated Argentina 59 (Laprovittola 16, Deck 12)
The Last Word with Adam Gibson, 2016 Rio Olympian
“A tough shooting first quarter for the Boomers but Thybulle kept the scores close with his usual great defensive plays. He’s rarely screened when guarding the ball and his deflections and steals off the ball are great. The third quarter opened up offensively, Mills got going, Exum made some big plays but for me it was Landale and Kay. Their defensive rotations, guarding the ball and rebounding was huge.
The Boomers defensive start to the fourth quarter is why I think we will play off for gold. Suffocating, up-and in-your-face style defence left Argentina with some bad misses and shot clock violations.
Great blow-out win being able to rest the starters and get some minutes into the bench guys will be great leading into the semi-final.”