They’re back! Opals narrowly miss record in ruthless demolition

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The 41-year-old only played 10 minutes in her return to international basketball – a 57-70 defeat.Timms questioned coach Sandy Brondello’s tactics. Will they be adjusted against Mali tonight?Opals live factboxQ4: AUSTRALIA 118-58 MALI— The Australian record is 119 — the Aussies finish one point short, dribbling out the clock at the end. Records matter little. The Opals are back, baby.— Nice moment for WNBL MVP Anneli Maley, who fills the deck for the Opals with her first points in the World Cup. The Opals have cracked the ton and every player has scored.Q3: AUSTRALIA 92-45 MALI— Five Opals in double-digits, led by George’s 14 that includes four treys, a feat emulated by captain Tess Madgen. Magbegor and Tolo have sealed beautifully on the inside and the Opals have found them time and time again. It’ll probably get harder to watch for the neutral from here, but it’s a chance to celebrate for the green and gold — and a chance for Brondello to play the kids.— This is what we want to see from the Opals. After shooting 26 per cent from the field and 21 per cent from deep — with just five makes on 23 attempts, the Aussies simply cannot miss from the three point line. Every trip down it seems like one of Madgen, George, Blicavs or Allen is drilling from deep. It was a surprise to see Madgen miss one with a minute to go in the period. Pure stuff from the green and gold. PS: No Lauren Jackson in the third again. Cue in the rack or is Sandy Brondello sticking to her guns? It’s not really an issue when you’re up by 50.— Mali’s Aminata Traore went down clutching her left leg after appearing to slip on the court following some incidental contact with Opals forward Darcee Garbin. She’s helped from the court. Fingers crossed it’s nothing serious.Q2: AUSTRALIA 56-22 MALI— Mali led 10-2 at the start of the game. It’s been 56-22 since. Insane stuff.— Cayla George went on a heater with a trio of three-pointers in just over a minute at the end of the half and the Opals are up by 34 at halftime. They need to win by about 43 to be outright second in the group of death. Signs are good. Really good.— Mali, meanwhile, is three-of-15 from the three point line. Probably time to try something different… They have seven scorers, none with more than five. Australia has used every player in its squad, with nine scorers, led by Cayla George’s 11.— Jackson sat with eight points in eight minutes. There was criticism after she sat for the entire third quarter against France. She could probably sit for this one, the Opals, barring some bizarre incident, are home. We’ve got our first sighting of WNBL MVP and Chicago Sky young gun Anneli Maley. — The quarter has belonged to Darcee Garbin. Active on both ends of the floor, the Kalgoorlie native, who plays in Hungary, went three-of-three from the field as the Opals started on a 12-zip run to blow away Mali. Tess Madgen banged in a pair of threes in the run.— Michele Timms on the concerns around Jackson’s mobility at the defensive end: “I think if anyone was concerned about Lauren Jackson’s ability to play defence, I think this game she’s done a terrific job with her footwork defensively.Q1: AUSTRALIA 23-12 MALI— The Aussies were down 10-2 when Lauren Jackson checked in. A little over three minutes later, the Opals were up 12-10 with the Aussie GOAT sparking a 16-0 run. She’s living at the free throw line — where she’s made five of eight attempts — because she’s a 196cm handful for Mali. Perhaps her best moment was a missed bucket when she battled down low, caught the entry pass and fired up a classic turnaround fadeaway jumper that was just a little heavy. Poetry. Marianna Tolo is going hard again, without luck, while the Opals have worked to find more opportunities for Sami Whitcomb, who mailed a nice trey. Coach Sandy Brondello must have listened to her fellow legend Michele Timms, pre-game, because the Opals have sunk into a zone at times and cranked up the D, just as the great former point guard called for. Mali didn’t score for over six minutes. Timms keeps calling LJ ‘Jacko’ — “OI!”— This is ugly, real ugly. After three-and-a-half minutes, their down 10-2 against Mali. The Opals are trying to bounce back against France, but they’ve left their game on the team bus. They couldn’t hit the back side of a barn against France and they’re one of six so far tonight, with Ezi Magbegor the only successful Opal. Lauren Jackson in the game and she’s immediately fouled and headed to the free throw line.It could be all square in between four group B sides—Megan HustwaiteIt’s heating up in Australia’s World Cup Pool with Canada impressive winners over France on Friday night.The 59-45 victory puts Canada 2-0 with the Opals looking for their first win of the competition tonight against Mali.Canada next plays Tokyo silver medallist Japan on Sunday before facing the Opals on Monday.Kia Nurse, the only import to win the WNBL MVP award, scored seven points in just her second game back on court after rupturing her ACL.If the Opals win tonight they move to a 1-1 alongside Pool B opponents Serbia, France and Japan.‘I feel for Lauren’: Opals legend questions GOAT’s benching—Michael RandallLegendary Aussie point guard Michele Timms has questioned the decision to sit Lauren Jackson for so long in the second half of the Opals’ World Cup-opening loss to France.The 41-year-old only played 10 minutes in her return to international basketball – a 57-70 defeat.Jackson sat on the bench for the entire third quarter and was not called on by coach Sandy Brondello again until there was 4.43 to go in the game.“I really feel for Lauren Jackson in that circumstance,” Timms said on ESPN, ahead of the Opals clash with Mali.“I thought Loz did a really good job and, to be sat that third quarter, for somebody who’s 40 years of age (sic), it’s hard to get back out.”Brondello addressed her reasoning for benching Jackson.“I think it was more about defensively,” Brondello said.“They (France) were putting her in a lot of pick and rolls.“Lauren doesn’t have the same mobility.”But Timms said Brondello should have changed things up to give Jackson the best opportunity to succeed, suggesting the Opals could have adopted a zone defence.“To say that she (Jackson) had trouble with the on balls (defence), when I was watching the game, I was surprised how well she was doing and, if the guards maybe had done a better job of getting over (screens) and not needing so much help, she wouldn’t have been put in so many (of those) situations,” Timms said.“I just think she wasn’t so bad, what I was watching, she was getting up and down the court.“I thought it was really tough for her to sit so long and then get injected back in.”Opals coach on why GOAT was benched—Matt LogueOpals coach Sandy Brondello has pleaded with her players to produce more offensively as pressure grows on Australia to progress to the quarter-finals.The Australians World Cup campaign is already under the spotlight following a disappointing loss to France on Thursday.The Opals failed to contain French forward Gabby Williams, who finished with a game-high 23 points.Australia also struggled offensively, shooting just 28 per cent from the field, while guard Bec Allen was the only player to score in double figures. Brondello knows her side must improve its offence, starting with a must-win clash against Mali on Friday night.“We need more scorers than Bec (Allen)” Brondello said. “We didn’t respond in the right way. I didn’t think we were aggressive at the start and offensively we couldn’t get any flow.“We shot the ball really poorly. You can’t shoot 28 per cent from the field and expect to win.”Brondello addressed her reasoning for benching Lauren Jackson for the entire third quarter.“I think it was more about defensively,” she said.“They (France) were putting her in a lot of pick and rolls. Lauren doesn’t have the same mobility.“I put (Marianna) Tolo in there and I thought she had really good minutes. That is what was working at the time, but Lauren will get other opportunities as we move forward.”Opals point guard Sami Whitcomb (eight points) shot two of eight from the field against France.Brondello will aim to unlock Whitcomb more on the offensive end against Mali.“We need Sami to score the basket, but she never really got a lot of open looks (against France),” she said.“It’s a credit to France’s defence — their up and in. “Maybe we can get her (Sami) off the ball a little bit and get her some on-ball action.”Brondello would also like to see more from star centre Ezi Magbegor, who also shot just two of nine from the field. “Ezi is an athlete for us, but I thought they (France) played her well,” she said.“They crowded her when she got into the paint and there were really no openings for her.“But Ezi will bounce back. I think it will start with us getting easy baskets in transition for her.“She runs well and we’ve got to give her those easy ones to give her confidence.”The Opals must beat Mali to stay in touch with their Group B rivals.There is reason for optimism, though, especially if Australia can beat Mali, Serbia and Canada.This would see the Opals claim a top two finish in their group.Brondello wants her players to use the pain as motivation to beat Mali.“We have to be disappointed, but it’s all about how we respond now,” she said. “What are we going to do about it?“We allowed (them) France to take us out of what we want to do with their aggressiveness.“We are a better team than what we showed.”Opals job made that much harder as group of death rings true—Megan HustwaiteIt was deemed the group of death following the FIBA Women’s World Cup draw in March and Pool B is proving to be just that.Serbia landed its first win of the tournament surprising Tokyo silver medallist Japan, 69-64, on Friday afternoon.The Serbians, one of the last teams to arrive in Sydney, had five players score in double figures led by Jovana Nogic’s 13 points.It’s a result the Opals had a close eye on ahead of their game against Serbia on Sunday night.At the qualifying tournament in Serbia in February, Australia had no answers for the home country who put the clamps on with stifling defence and their tough, physical style of play.Also on Day 2, USA thumped Puerto Rico, 106-42, and is set to welcome WNBA championship trio A’ja Wilson, Chelsea Gray and Kelsey Plum into the line-up for Saturday’s bumper game against China.Emma Meesseman (10 rebounds, 9 points, 7 assists) flirted with a triple double in Belgium’s opening win of the tournament over Korea, 84-61.The Opals will look to respond from their lacklustre opening-night defeat to France with a win over Mali tonight.The champs are here—Megan HustwaiteA’ja Wilson, Kelsey Plum and Chelsea Gray arrived at the USA’s team hotel on Friday morning ahead of their first minutes in the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup.The trio won a WNBA championship with Las Vegas on Monday and were part of a celebratory parade down the famous Vegas strip on Wednesday before flying to Australia.The Americans, who defeated Belgium by 15 points on day one, play Puerto Rico this morning with the star players likely to hit the floor tomorrow in what looms as a bumper contest with China. What we learned from Jackson’s Opals second coming—Megan HustwaiteLauren Jackson shook off the cobwebs in her first international appearance in nine years but the Opals went down to France.There’s no time to dwell for the Aussies, with minnows Mali awaiting on Friday night.Here’s what we learned from the Opals’ upset defeat in their opener — and what needs to change for the result to be reversed.French toastIt didn’t go to play for Australia on opening night but unfortunately for the Opals it wasn’t the first time they’ve stumbled over a French hurdle in the pool stages of a major tournament.Rewind to London 2012, Australia lost in overtime to France, the untimely defeat eventually derailing their Olympic gold medal hopes.The game most famous for Belinda Snell’s jaw dropping half court buzzer beater on half time, sadly for the Aussies there were no such highlights in Sydney.Tempo ToloVeteran Marianna Tolo came in and wrestled back some momentum with her grit, desperation and invaluable experience in the third term to have 8 points by three quarter time in as many minutes. When the Opals needed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic quarterfinals by beating Puerto Rico by 25 points last year it was cometh the moment, cometh Marianna who produced a mammoth 26-point-17 rebound to get her country over the line.On Thursday night, the 33-year-old again pushed her case for increased minutes and showed she is up for a greater role. Comeback QueenIf you thought the cheer was loud for Lauren Jackson when she subbed into the game in the first quarter, it didn’t compare to the roar when she sunk a three, the first points of her international comeback and 600th at FIBA level.Jackson clocked 10 minutes court time in her return and showed age and time away from the game hadn’t impacted her composure and IQ.Spida’s webShe plies her trade overseas year-round but Bec ‘Spida’ Allen produced quite the homecoming as Australia’s main offensive threat on night one.Allen set the tone early scoring the first five points of the game and used her length, polish and knack for a basket to make her presence felt. With 16 points, she was the Opals top scorer but went 2/6 from the three showing she can improve, continue to flourish and be a big factor this tournament.Storm ChaserGabby Williams taunted Australia, and her WNBA Seattle Storm teammates Ezi Magbegor and Steph Talbot, with a game-high 23 points.The gun forward missed last weekend’s Test Event, where the Opals overcame an early deficit to prevail, but stood up superbly in the absence of France’s best player – Marine Johannes – who withdrew from the team on Wednesday with a thigh injury.Updates to story