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Australia win World University Games gold

29 August 2017

BASKETBALL: For the second time in the Emerging Opals' World University Games history, they have claimed the gold medal after a stunning run through the finals which culminated with an 85-76 victory over Japan in the last game of the tournament.

The victory follows a gold medal in 2007 and bronze medals in 2005, 2009, 2011 and 2013 while this year, the Emerging Opals lost just one game overall, a five-point defeat to Russia.

After traversing arguably the toughest group in the pool stage, the Aussies defeated USA, host nation Chinese Taipei and a rampaging Japanese side to win the gold medal in convincing fashion.

They utilised a significant advantage in the paint to beat Japan, finishing +19 in rebounds while also recording 25 assists on 34 field goals which opened up the floor for them to knock down 8-19 from beyond the arc.

Dominant throughout the tournament, Lauren Scherf and Darcee Garbin again controlled proceedings.

Scherf (18 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, four steals, four blocks) came very close to a 5x5 game while Garbin flirted with a triple-double to finish with a game-high 30 points on 11-21 shooting, ten boards and six assists.

Garbin opened the game with five of Australia's first seven points as well as a block and the Emerging Opals hit four of their five baskets in a fast start.

Japan took advantage of their speed in the open court though and while the Aussies had a size advantage, that proved detrimental at the defensive end as the Japanese guards broke them down with some impressive penetrating drives.

A late flurry from Garbin gave the forward nine points by quarter-time and when Alex Wilson drilled a three-pointer from the corner, the Emerging Opals had gained an eight-point lead at quarter-time.

That edge did not last long as Japan came out of the first break with a 6-0 run while holding the Emerging Opals scoreless for 2:30 before Abbey Wehrung broke the drought with a three.

Scherf then began to assert herself, patrolling the paint with three blocks which she combined with eight points and eight rebounds to help the Emerging Opals to a +19 rebound advantage and ten-point lead by half-time.

She continued to go to work out of the main break alongside Garbin as the two forwards scored six of their team's first nine points while Wehrung (11 points, three assists) hit double-figures alongside them with a three and Wilson chimed in with another long range bomb herself.

That pushed the lead out to a game-high 22 at three-quarter time as the Aussies completely took over while Keely Froling (three points, four rebounds) played some strong minutes to give her starting front court a well-earned rest.

Japan were not going to go down without a fight though and threw the Emerging Opals out of rhythm as they double-teamed Scherf while putting together an 11-0 run to open the fourth term.

Scoreless for over four minutes, Wilson put an end to the drought with a tough make but Japan were relentless, knocking down buckets quickly inside the shot clock and forcing the tempo.

The Emerging Opals were not drawn into their opposition's game though, maintaining their composure thanks to Kristy Wallace (four points, three assists) while Wilson (17 points, four assists) kept the scoreboard ticking over and Scherf and Garbin notched double-doubles to hold the Japanese at bay.

They were able to trim the deficit as close as seven with a 27-12 final quarter but the Australians' lead proved too great to overcome with the Emerging Opals clinching their second ever World University Games gold medal.

Find the stats here.

The future of Australian women's basketball continues to shine bright with this latest success for a team made up of Under-23 players following on from last year's gold medal at the FIBA Under-17 World Championships.

The Under-19 Gems also finished sixth at this year's World Cup with the women's team having already qualified for the Under-18 Asia Championships next year from which the top four teams will qualify for the 2019 Under-19 World Cup.

Baksteball Australia

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