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Asia Cup: China syndrome in Opals meltdown

SHOOTING a lamentable 34 per cent from the floor and belted 47-30 on the boards, Australia suffered a second-half meltdown against China at the Asia Cup to lose 64-82 in Jordan to one of the genuine Gold Medal fancies.

While the Opals' target of Gold is little more than fanciful, the team's deficiencies cruelly were exposed after halftime last night when they simply could not convert their opportunities.

Trailing 39-40 at the main interval and seemingly well in the contest, Australia missed its first five shots of the third quarter before captain Sami Whitcomb (24 points, seven rebounds, five assists and a steal) struck a 3-pointer to briefly tie it at 42-42.

But the Opals' offence stayed dry as a bone as they went 3-of-18 for the period - the other two baskets a triple from Lauren Scherf and a late driving bucket from Kristy Wallace - in a 10-point quarter that gave China all the impetus it needed.

By the last quarter, Whitcomb (below), who was sensational again, was so obviously running on empty there was no way the Opals could catch the favourites.

Lauren Nicholson's bona fides as a regular selection for international level also fell under the microscope with her return for 25:13 of action being zero points on 0-of-5 shooting, no rebounds, an assist and three steals. Darcee Garbin also was disappointing.

So much was left to Whitcomb that it was heartening to see Wallace step up offensively in support with 14 points. But 25 points as a team for the second half never was going to get this done.

Watching the main rotation tire also threw a spotlight on the rotations coach Paul Goriss was using.

Tiana Mangakahia, who started the Opals' first match against Chinese Taipei, played only the game's final 2:50, as did Jade Melbourne. Jaz Shelley, another promising and exciting prospect, also only saw 10 minutes. 

Again, if the Aussies were very much in the game, it would be easier to understand. But as China's inside/outside dominance became increasingly apparent and the Opals mainstays noticeably tired, the door seemed ajar to try something different.

Instead players such as Alex Sharp and Zitina Aokuso, who were on three fouls apiece, sat for an inordinate amount of time as the game gradually and steadily slipped completely out of reach.

The signs were there early, a 3-point banker by Whitcomb to close the first period leaving Australia only 19-25 in arrears. It could have been worse, and ultimately got there, China shooting at 49 per cent.

CHINA 82 (Han 16, Yuan Li 15, Yang, Huang 12; Han 11 rebs; Wang 5 assts) d AUSTRALIA OPALS 64 (Whitcomb 24, Wallace 14; Whitcomb 7 rebs; Whitcomb 5 assts). Japan 67 d Korea 62; New Zealand 109 d India 49; Chinese Taipei 93 d Philippines 52. 

STEPPING UP: Kristy Wallace gave the Opals a secondary scoring option.

Sep 30

Content, unless otherwise indicated, is © copyright Boti Nagy.