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Asia Cup: Opals make tapas of Taipei

NO-ONE expected Chinese Taipei to show the pluck it did, jumping Australia's reburbished Opals and forcing them into a much tougher fight than expected before they prevailed 76-65 overnight in Jordan to open their FIBA Asia Cup assault.

Opals captain for this campaign, Sami Whitcomb - yes, the same Sami who couldn't make our Tokyo Olympic Games team - erroneously started on the bench and Chinese Taipei seized that opportunity to lead early and again by halftime, 34-33.

Whitcomb was late to join the team, flying to Jordan straight after Sandy Brondello's Phoenix Mercury eliminated her New York Liberty in a cut-throat WNBA elimination final.

Even so, with Whitcomb suited up to play, why then bring her off the bench? She easily is the team's best player and when she entered, the flavour of the contest immediately changed in Australia's favour.

Lauren Scherf became a factor too but it was Alex Sharp (above) who proved the biggest surprise, pairing 11 points with 10 rebounds.

Whitcomb also produced a double-double with 13 points and 11 assists, not to mention a tidy six boards in 28 minutes.

Zitina Aokuso added 10 points and Darcee Garbin led all scorers with 15 points, the game breaking open in the third quarter.

Garbin had twice as many 3-point attempts (3-of-8) than twos (3-of-4) and considering her size, probably could afford to balance that out more evenly.

Understandably, given their lack of preparation and late withdrawals, the Opals endured patches of untidy and fragmented play offensively and were disappointing at times with the penetrations allowed at the defensive end.

Their 54-39 rebounding disparity though was significant and there could be no doubting the commitment of every young player wearing the green-and-gold at senior level for the first time. 

AUSTRALIA OPALS 76 (Garbin 15, Whitcomb 13, Sharp 11, Aokuso 10; Sharp 10 rebs; Whitcomb 11 assts) d CHINESE TAIPEI 65 (Lin 12, Peng 8; Tieh Lin 11 rebs; Yu-Tin Ling 7 assts). Japan 136 d India 46; Korea 85 d New Zealand 69; China 143 d Philippines 52.

STANDING TALL: Zitina Aokuso has this rebound to herself as the Opals pull clear of Taipei.

Sep 28

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