Shooting their way past Australia, Japan recorded an 83-71 win at the 2015 World University Games, ending the Emerging Opals’ quest for a medal.
Despite 22 points and three assists from Tessa Lavey, Japan was able to pull away late in the fourth quarter, thanks to some sizzling three-point shooting that earned them a 12-point win over Australia and a chance to play for a medal. Sara Blicavs provided 14 points and three rebounds; one of only two UniRoos to score in double figures.
After cruising through the group stage, Australia encountered a more disciplined and highly skilled side in Japan who made the UniRoos pay for their lapses defensively, an area head coach Brendan Joyce takes great pride in instilling in his teams.
“Credit to the Japanese players who punished our defensive breakdowns tonight,” shared Joyce after the game.
“Japan played very well and deserved the victory. Any time we defended poorly, the Japanese capitalized on our breakdowns.”
Japan was first to open their scoring account but Alice Kunek quickly responded with a three-pointer that got Australia on their way. Lavey continued the Emerging Opals’ hot perimeter shooting with a triple of her own while Aimee Clydesdale (nine points, four assists) got going as well.
Japan continued to shoot well too, preventing the UniRoos from breaking away. In a fast finish to the quarter, Madeleine Garrick (eight points, three rebounds) scored five straight points including a big three to ensure Australia held a slender 21-20 advantage.
The second quarter saw each team go blow for blow, with Clydesdale continuing her good shooting and Blicavs providing five points for the period. Japan kept pace though, answering every big shot Australia threw at them.
Thanks to a late Lavey score just before half-time, Australia managed to edge back ahead 37-35. Keeping the UniRoos in front was their offensive rebounding, generating second-chance scoring opportunities to capitalise on.
Like the second period, Japan continued to shadow the Australians closely. Garrick and Lavey continued to find ways to score but Japan finally pulled ahead for the first time since the opening basket, with 4:27 left. Stephanie Talbot and Blicavs delivered when it was needed, enabling their side to reclaim the advantage.
The lead continued to change hands, with both teams making big plays and landing big shots. This included Lavey who connected from long range before drawing a foul in the dying seconds, making both free throws to put her side back ahead 57-56 and set the scene for a thrilling final term.
With the lead constantly changing, Japan connected on a big three-pointer and a free throw not long after to edge ahead by five points. Lavey continued to come up with big plays, responding with a triple of her own but Japan returned the favour with a 9-0 run that included two from beyond the arc to open up a ten-point margin – the largest lead of any team for the game.
With minutes to go, Australia managed one final run at the Japanese. Consecutive baskets from Blicavs and Talbot closed the margin to six points, with two minutes remaining. Japan missed chances to ice the game right then but Australia ran out of luck as a crucial steal was followed by an offensive foul.
Japan did not give the UniRoos another chance. They nailed their fourth three-pointer for the quarter without a miss – their tenth for the game – to go back up by nine points and effectively end the match.
Japan proved to be Australia’s only real challenge at the Games; the UniRoos had easily dispatched their group stage opponents by an average winning margin of 52 points.
After shooting so well from the perimeter throughout the tournament, their hot shooting deserted them when they needed it most. Japan impressed, making 7-9 three-pointers in the second half while also winning the rebounding war 41-34.
Joyce acknowledged it was a tough loss but was also quick to look ahead and identify the positives.
“It was a tough loss but an important lesson for the team with nine players eligible for the 2017 Universiade,” he said.
“The learning we can carry over to the next World Uni Games.”
Before the next edition of the World University Games however, Australia still has unfinished business and can finish as high as 5th place in this event. Hungary is the next challenge who were blown away by the USA in their quarterfinal.
5 July, defeated Uganda 128-31
6 July, defeated Brazil 85-40
7 July, defeated Chinese Taipei 77-62
9 July, Quarter Final: lost to Japan 71-83
11 July, Classification (5-8), 6:30pm AEST vs Hungary
12 July, Final Classifications