The Opals have been unable to begin their 2022 FIBA Girls’s World Cup marketing campaign on a successful notice, last night falling to France 70-57 in a recreation that confirmed the Opals have work to do — particularly on the offensive finish – to compete in opposition to the most effective groups on this planet.
In what was a packed-out Sydney Superdome with 9,291 in attendance, Australian followers had been out in pressure hoping to see an Opals win, however French celebrity Gabby Williams had different concepts.
The stadium erupted when the legendary Lauren Jackson checked into the sport for the primary time, and the 41-year-old – who final performed for Australia 9 years in the past – actually gave Australia some good minutes within the first half and late within the fourth quarter.
Regardless of the Opals staying inside hanging distance of France for the primary three quarters, it was Australia’s struggles on offence that in the end sank their hopes of a comeback win.
The Opals’ lack of ability to hit photographs meant their defence might solely hold them afloat for therefore lengthy, and ultimately France ran excessive as Williams sank a dagger triple within the remaining two minutes to complete with a game-high 23 factors on an environment friendly 67 per cent taking pictures from the sector.
Whereas Williams was economical, Australia was something however. The Opals linked on simply 26 per cent of photographs from the sector and a measly 21.7 per cent from deep. Taking pictures numbers like that and a complete of 57 factors merely is not going to get the job performed at a World Cup.
Sharpshooter Bec Allen would be the key to the whole lot Australia does on this event, however she’s going to want teammates to assist share the load on offence.
The one Opal to attain in double figures, Allen (16 factors and four rebounds) saved the scoreboard ticking over early within the recreation, however as France’s defensive depth rose, Australia’s offence could not deal with the strain and turnovers mounted shortly.
You would be forgiven for pondering Australia would not boast an array of nice shooters after final evening’s efficiency, however that is not the case.
The likes of Sami Whitcomb, Steph Talbot and Darcee Garbin are all world-class shooters from deep, however they did not hit a single triple within the recreation, going a mixed 0/10 from lengthy vary. This typified Australia’s evening, with gamers unable to profit from what are often their strengths on the courtroom, and Ezi Magbegor additionally struggling to complete across the basket.
A lot of Australia’s turnovers had been the results of communication errors and lazy ball dealing with, and because the turnovers began to take their toll, the Opals went again into their shells and ball motion was near non-existent.
The Opals must get the ball within the palms of their shooters coming off screens, not counting on them to continuously create their very own shot because the clock ticks down.
Worryingly, this recreation had an analogous really feel on the offensive finish to the Tokyo Olympics marketing campaign the place the Opals could not get something going offensively for a lot of the event and completed ninth general.
The excellent news is that regardless of the entire offensive woes, there have been actual positives to be taken out of this recreation that Australia can construct upon, particularly as they face a a lot lower-ranked opponent, Mali, tonight.
Maybe the largest optimistic was that for big elements of the sport, Australia’s defence held robust. It was a defensive battle for a lot of the sport, and Steph Talbot led Australia on that finish of the ground with all-out effort and hustle.
Coach Sandy Brondello could have a lot to consider rotation-wise going ahead. And the play of Kristy Wallace and Marianna Tolo – who had been used sparingly – warranted extra courtroom time for each. Wallace is considered one of Australia’s finest perimeter defenders and her relentless perspective of by no means giving up on a play and harassing opposing guards to the purpose of whole frustration must be higher utilised.
Her defensive work is elite, however by additionally giving her extra ball-handling accountability it could assist to unencumber the taking pictures brilliance of Whitcomb, who was tied down for a lot of the evening with operating Australia’s offence from the highest of the important thing.
After solely taking part in simply over two minutes within the first half of the sport, Tolo got here into her personal within the third quarter and did what she has performed persistently for the Opals over the course of her profession; battle and scrap for the betterment of the workforce.
Her third quarter modified the momentum of the sport. She was subbed in and shortly scored, earlier than serving to to pressure France right into a turnover after which producing three efforts in a matter of seconds which completed with an and-1 play that bought the vocal Australian crowd on their toes.
At occasions, the Opals lacked that manic however under-control assault on offence. It is a positive line to stroll, particularly within the opening recreation of a World Cup on residence soil when the adrenaline is pumping, however a participant that may add a lot worth in that side of the sport is Anneli Maley.
The one Opal to not see courtroom time final evening, the reigning WNBL MVP is a workhorse who will cease at nothing to seize an offensive rebound, dive for a free ball and create power on each ends of the courtroom. Injecting her into rotation would give Australia extra versatility on the offensive finish.
Whereas it was a removed from preferrred opening to a World Cup marketing campaign for the Opals, it is actually not all doom and gloom. France – ranked sixth on this planet – are an excellent workforce and they’ll bother many opponents all through this event, however the Opals must deal with defensive strain higher.
In addition they must hit extra photographs, which they need to in the event that they care for the ball.
Dealing with Mali – ranked 37th on this planet – presents the Opals with a golden alternative to bounce again and generate some momentum because the event actually kicks into gear.