The first day of group play looked as if it was flush in mismatches.
The second day of appeared to be a lot more promising as more of the games were competitive.
So, it is somewhat fitting that the last day of group play at the FIBA World Cup was a healthy mix of routs and close games.
Team USA decided it wanted to be on the “rout” end of that ledger as they blew out Latvia by a final of 102-76 to go undefeated in Group D. The win earned Team USA a berth to the quarterfinals on Friday.
Several other teams alsso earned quarterfinal bids – all with the goal of dethroning the winners of the last two FIBA World Cups.
Japan vs. Puerto Rico
The initial FIBA World Cup has not gone exactly as planned for Puerto Rico, but some teams have to consider simply making it an accomplishment given the daunting competition that awaits.
For Japan, expectations are much higher and simply cannot be satisfied with simply arriving in Tenerife. In the final game of group play for both teams, it would be Japan proving victorious by virtue of a 69-61 decision over Puerto Rico.
Despite the eight-point margin of victory for Japan, it could have been more as they led 43-28 at the half. Credit has to be given to Puerto Rico for competing and attempting a comeback the way it did as it outscored Japan 17-10 in the third quarter.
But one of Japan’s biggest advantages is the way it efficiently moves the ball around the floor. It proved that once again against Puerto Rico tallying 23 assists to only 10 for Puerto Rico.
Another advantage Japan had is it had Yuki Miyazawa who scored 15 points and hauled in 14 rebounds in nearly 35 minutes of play. Maki Takada had 14 points and seven rebounds and Evelyn Mauli scored 11. Rui Machida dished out seven assists off the bench.
Jazmon Gwathmey scored 23 points and Jennifer O’Neill scored 20 in addition to nine rebounds for Puerto Rico. Tayra Melendez also had eight rebounds.
Australia vs. Turkey
Four teams earned bids to Friday’s play in the quarterfinals. One of them was the USA as they went undefeated in group stage.
Australia was another.
All of the Opals’ victories this FIBA World Cup have come by large margins. Australia kept that same energy in its final group stage contest against Turkey as they won 90-64.
While the Opals remain undefeated, the loss has to be a disappointing one for Turkey given they opened the tournament with a 63-37 drubbing of Argentina on the FIBA World Cup’s first day.
A big reason was because its defense had no answer for Liz Cambage. She scored 25 points and shot 11 out of 13 from the field in just under 19 minutes of play along with seven rebounds.
As expected, the WNBA contingency of Australia were the key to its imposing win over Turkey. Along with Cambage’s outing, Rebecca Allen scored 13 points, Cayla George scored 12 points to go along with her five assists and Sami Whitcomb scored 11.
Quanitra Hollingsworth had 11 points and seven rebounds for Turkey.
Korea vs. Greece
For Greece, the mantra was simple – defeat Korea or go home.
For Korea, the mantra was simple – defeat Greece or go home.
When in the same group as France and Canada, a team that may not have the talent as either one of those squads will encounter its fair share of growing pains.
Something had to give in this contest of winless teams. What gave out were both teams’ offenses that may not have had good days at the office shootingwise, but Greece were 10 better than Korea as they earned a 58-48 victory.
Korea’s shooting percentage was only 29 percent. Greece was not much better as it only went 34 percent from the field. Greece was efficient on defense, forcing Korea into 10 turnovers, stealing the ball five times, and converting 16 points off turnovers.
Greece also outdid Korea 11-5 in second chance despite only having a slight offensive rebounding edge over Korea.
Artemis Spanou scored 13 points and also contributed 12 rebounds.
Leesul Kang scored 10 for Korea.
Senegal vs. China
This one turned out to be a case of two teams that eventually made it into the quarterfinals.
Both teams, though, eventually had to play on Wednesday on Day One of said quarterfinals to potentially earn berths against the four teams that advanced to Friday’s play.
With both teams at 1-1 (thanks to losses to Team USA), it meant one of these teams would be 2-1 and another would be 1-2. Latvia went to 0-3 and were already eliminated from the tournament and China defeated Senegal by a final of 75-66.
China had a 14-8 offensive rebounding advantage over Senegal along with outscoring Senegal’s bench 39-11. China was also extremely efficient in transition on offense as they scored 14 fast break points to only two for Senegal.
Meng Li scored 15 points and Shao Ting added 10. Yueru Li also corralled 11 rebounds.
Astou Traore had 21 points despite only shooting seven out of 18 from the field. She made five of six of her free throws to go along with six rebounds. Yacine Diop had 13 points and seen rebounds and Mame Marie Sy-Diop scored 12.
Senegal managed to trim its deficit to four (70-66) late in the fourth quarter before two free throws from Siyu Wang and a three from Meng Li upped China’s lead to its eventual margin of victory of 75-66.
Argentina vs. Nigeria
To say that this FIBA World Cup has resulted in hard luck for Argentina would be an understatement.
Argentina opened the tournament with blowout losses to Turkey and Australia, so perhaps they would have better fortunes against Nigeria to conclude group play.
While nowhere near as lopsided as its defeats to Turkey and Australia, Argentina’s FIBA World Cup ended in a whimper by virtue of a 75-70 decision in favor of Nigeria.
D’Tigress practically took the opposite trajectory as Turkey did as it suffered defeat in its first contest to Australia to only bounce back with wins in its last two group stage games.
A big reason for the win – rebounding. Nigeria outrebounded Argentina 56-39 including outdoing Argentina on the offensive glass 24-11. In addition, they converted a huge number of those rebounds into points as they had 21 second chance points to only six for Argentina.
Evelyn Akhator had 10 points and 13 rebounds – six of them being offensive boards. Promise Amukamara provided 16 points off the bench along with going eight for nine in free throws. Aisha Mohammed (nine rebounds) and Ezinne Josephine Kalu each scored 12 points and Adoara Elonu had 10 of her own.
Forty of Argentina’s 70 points came from Melisa Gretter (21) and Victoria Llorente (19). Both also had seven rebounds. Macarana Rosset added six rebounds.
Belgium vs. Spain
At 2-0, a victory over Belgium would have advanced Spain into Friday’s slate of the quarterfinals leaving Belgium having to push for a berth on Wednesday.
If one were to have prognosticated the tournament prior to the first day of group play, one may have guessed that Spain would be one of those teams that would be playing on Friday via a 3-0 slate in the preliminary round.
Belgium had other ideas as they dealt Spain its first defeat of this year’s FIBA World Cup via a 72-63 decision.
Entering the fourth quarter, Belgium’s lead was 61-46, but one cannot take anything for granted against a formidable team such as Spain, who outscored Belgium 17-11 in the fourth. That, of course, would not be enough.
And it would not be enough because Belgium’s defense made things difficult for Spain all game. It held Spain to only shooting 35 percent from the field and forcing them into 13 turnovers.
Spain shot 49 percent against Japan and 45 percent against Puerto Rico.
Kim Mestdagh scored 21 points on eight of 13 shooting. Emma Meesseman had 19 to go along with eight rebounds.
Alba Torrens scored 16 points in addition to five rebounds, three assists, and two blocked shots. Marta Xargay had 13 points and six rebounds and Laura Nicholls scored 12 points with 13 rebounds.
Canada vs. France
It is always a treat when two 2-0 teams meet up on the court.
Without question these two teams were the class of their respective group, meaning it is appropriate that they meet up with a spot in the Friday quarterfinal slate on the line.
In another for the “It is not how you start, it is how you finish, exhibit,” Canada rallied back from trailing 25-12 after the first quarter to top France by a final of 71-60.
The win, of course, advanced Canada to Friday and preserved its unblemished mark in this year’s World Cup.
As the game went longer, Canada got stronger. It outscored France 45-24 in the second half, including 26-14 in the fourth quarter.
Important keys for Canada were offensive rebounding, transition offense, and interior presence. Canada had a 13-7 offensive rebounding edge, scored 15 fast break points to three for France, and scored 36 points in the paint.
Kia Nurse scored 18 points and had six assists. Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Shay Colley scored 12. Natalie Achonwa also pulled in 10 rebounds.
Sandrine Grude scored 14 points and pulled down eight rebounds. Olivia Epoupa finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. Diandra Tchatchouang dished out five assists.