Australian coach Carrie Graf admits her team were embarrassed and made to look “like little girls” in the first half of their 83-75 loss to the United States at the world championship in the Czech Republic.
In a battle of two teams tipped to meet again in the final, the
Americans totally outclassed Australia up until halftime, producing an 18-0 run bridging the first and second quarters to steamroll to a commanding 51-33 lead at the main break.
The Opals fought back well to win the second half 42-32 and give themselves some badly-needed confidence if they are to run into the US again, but they left themselves to much to do.
The Australians now face a tricky quarter-final clash with the Czech Republic on Friday, while the Americans topped the group to earn a more comfortable knock-out clash with Korea.
“I don’t think I swore (at halftime), but we were embarrassing on the glass, that was the bottom line,” Graf said.
“It was like little girls playing ladies.
“We were disastrous on the glass and that sets the tone for the game.
“We got out-muscled off everything and it was un-Australian to do that.
“Credit to our team we adjusted to the physical nature of the game and raised our intensity, but you can’t let great teams get out to huge leads like that.”
Apart from Australia’s second-half fightback, the most encouraging element of the game was a break-out performance from 19-year-old centre Liz Cambage.
After a slow start, Cambage grew in stature as the game progressed against the world’s top-ranked team to finish with 18 points, seven boards and four blocks.
Lauren Jackson battled hard to add 13 points, but the US rode on the back of Diana Taurasi’s 24-point haul and a 15-point first-half from Sylvia Fowles.
The US had seven offensive rebounds to two at quarter-time as they man-handled the Opals and appeared on track for another comprehensive win against a team that has never beaten them in nine world championship attempts.
But the Australians at least showed enough in the second half to suggest they might be able to prevent a tenth straight loss if they can negotiate their way through two more games and into the gold medal match.
“We’ve got loads to work on,” Graf said.
“Liz was a shining light and that augurs well for her and for her future as an Opal.
“I think Lauren and Penny (Taylor) can give us a fair bit more and had to battle for what they got.
“Now it’s about win or go home.”
US coach Geno Auriemma was surprised by the ease of the first half.
“The first quarter especially,” he said.
“I thought we came out and played great and did some really good things offensively and defensively and played with a lot of confidence.
“I thought the second half was more like what I thought the whole game would be like.”