Spirited Aussies overpower Brazil
7 August 2016
BASKETBALL: Liz Cambage took centre stage - and drew a little inspiration from Kanye West - as the Australian women’s basketball team scored an 84-66 victory over hosts Brazil in their opening Group A match at the Youth Arena, Deodora.
In front of a parochial home crowd that at times threatened to lift the roof off the stadium, Cambage scored a team-high 20 points and pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds as the Australians began their Olympic campaign in Rio with a spirited victory.
The Aussies showed great character to maintain their composure and concentration after a slow start against an emotionally charged host nation, whose intensity at both ends of the court reflected the passionate support they were receiving from the home crowd.
“I haven't seen any stats but at the end of the day I'm just happy that we got that win,” Cambage said.
“I feel like this game has been a big focus all year – the home nation, the first game of the Olympics, and I'm so happy it's out of the way.
“It was a real grind but we got there in the end.”
At times the noise was deafening, and while a stadium packed with green and gold supporters is normally a great show of support for the Australians, this time they had their work cut out to quieten the local fans.
But with the likes of the Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC, and Oarsome Foursome great James Tomkins cheering them on, the Australians rallied to defy the crowd and some red-hot Brazilian shooting to record their seventh straight win over the hosts and extend a streak that goes back to 2002.
“I'm going to quote Kanye here: ‘screams from the haters, got a nice ring to it,” Cambage said of how the Aussies used the enthusiastic support for the home team to rally their own performance.
“It's good hearing a crowd into it. That was always going to be a point, is was always going to be a loud game.
“The Brazilians are known for their energy and such passionate culture, so we always knew it was going to be a tough one.”
Cambage who led the way, dominating her battle with Brazil’s WNBA centre Erika Souza.
The powerful centre scored 10 of Australia’s 14 first quarter points and her absence midway through the period sparked a Brazilian run that saw the hosts secure a 10-point lead at the first break.
But as the likes of Leilani Mitchell (18 points), Penny Taylor (17 points) and Marianna Tolo (nine points, four rebounds) began to take charge, the Australians slowly, but surely, fought their way back.
They reduced the home side’s lead to four points at half-time and established a four-point lead of their own, 57-53, at the end of the third quarter.
It was a lead they never surrendered as the Australians held their nerve in the final quarter to blow the game open and record an important win.
“We really dug deep out there,” Taylor said.
“We knew it was going to be an enormous challenge and we are glad to get it out if the way.”
The Australians will play their second pool match, against Turkey, at 5:30pm on Sunday 7 August (Rio time), 6:30am AEST Monday 8 August.
Turkey earlier lost its opening match to France, 55-39.