So what happened?
Yet again Australia played the role of Comeback Queens as it fought back from 13 points down midway through the third quarter to defeat Belarus, 74-66.
Brendan Joyce’s team was slow out of the blocks for the fourth time in Rio and trailed at every break, 25-22 at quarter time, 39-36 at the major break then 59-52 at three quarter time, before finding its groove when it mattered most.
The Opals went on a 16-3 run to start the final term and outscore Belarus 22-7 on the way to their fifth win of the tournament, maintaining undefeated status.
While Australia lifted in the last stanza, via Rachel Jarry and Cayla Francis before Liz Cambage took control, Belarus dropped right off, buckling under pressure and shooting at a poor 3-of-16 from the field.
Mariana Tolo (four), Leilani Mitchell (four) and Cambage (three) all found themselves in foul trouble and sitting out extended periods which allowed some valuable minutes to be put into the bench. And it delivered with a handful of Opals stepping up and filling a range of categories on the stat sheet.
The Opals ability to come from behind, in all but its fixture against France on Wednesday, and prevail is equally pleasing and concerning. Australia will want to produce more of the outstanding basketball it displayed against France in the finals and medal matches as it keeps its eye firmly on the prize that is an elusive gold medal.
Who did what?
For the fourth time in five games, Cambage strut her star quality and topped Australia’s stat sheet with 17 points, seven of which were scored when the game was in the line in the final term. She also pulled in nine boards.
Captain Penny Taylor (11 points, five rebounds, three assists) was the only other Australian to score in double figures. She played just 23.44 minutes of the game, her lowest court time so far in Rio.
More minutes for the bench players translated into a shared load for the Opals who conjured 38 of their 74 points from the pine.
Cayla George (nine points, seven rebounds) was busy at both ends and provided a glimpse into the great basketball she produced in Townsville’s back-to-back WNBL championships.
Jarry relished the chance for more court time, clocked just under 16 minutes and delivered eight points and four steals in a typically blue collar display, Katie Rae Ebzery built on her promising campaign by adding nine points while point guard Tessa Lavey registered six assists and six rebounds.
While her 100th Opals game was marked with a victory, it was ultimately a quiet outing personally for Erin Phillips who failed to score in 14.49 minutes and dished out just two assists.
For Belarus, it was American born-guard Lindsey Harding scored a team-high 16 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals. Atlanta Dream centre Yelena Leuchanka (15 points, seven rebounds, four assists) had a productive all-round game, shooting guard Tatsiana hit 14 points and Anastasiya Verameyenka finished with 12 points of her own.
And what’s next?
The Opals have finished the regular games undefeated with five wins at the top of Pool A and now turn their attention to a quarter-final showdown with Serbia on Wednesday (Tip-off TBC).
The sides last met in 2015 prior to the European qualifiers.
On the opening leg of their European tour, the Opals fell to the world No.14 twice.
In its 75-54 first-up defeat Suzy Batkovic top scored for Australia with 10 points in 16 minutes of play, while the fixture marked the international debut of forward Stephanie Talbot.
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