Australia size up China for retribution in basketball World Cup semi-final | Basketball

Centre Cayla George says the Opals will do their utmost to ignore “not very nice” memories of their last meeting with China as they compete for a place in the gold medal match at the women’s basketball World Cup.

With the scores level in the final 0.6 seconds of Australia’s match against China at the Tokyo Olympics, George was ruled to have fouled Li Yueru under the ring, despite the referee closest to the play letting the foul go.

Another match official blew the foul, which allowed China to shoot two free throws and win the game.

At the time, Opals coach Sandy Brondello expressed her disappointment with the last-second call but George said Australia could not afford to become bogged down in the past when they met China in Friday night’s semi-final.

“They’re not very nice, happy thoughts, thinking about that game from the Olympics last year,” George said after racking up 19 points and nine rebounds in Australia’s 86-69 quarter-final defeat of Belgium.

“We’re just trying to put last year behind us and move forward because we’re in the now and we’re playing really great basketball.”

Only seven of the 12 players from that loss to China are playing at the World Cup and, if Bec Allen sits out with her rib injury, that tally will drop to six at Qudos Bank Arena.

Controversy reigned under the ring in Australia’s last meeting with China, at the Tokyo Olympics.
Controversy reigned under the ring in Australia’s last meeting with China, at the Tokyo Olympics. Photograph: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

“It’s not really a comparable year, to be honest,” George said. “[China] are a really tough team. They’re playing really great basketball. It’s going to be a really big challenge for us and I think we’re up for it.”

On Thursday night Lauren Jackson produced the best performance of her international comeback thus far, playing more minutes against Belgium than in any other game at the tournament and finishing with more points (12).

The 41-year-old came on in the first quarter and drained a three-pointer to give Australia what was then a game-high lead of 11 points.

She has scored at least one three-pointer in each of Australia’s six games – no small feat given her limited minutes.

“I’m just happy to get whatever I get. I’m going to be the best teammate I can be and cheer as loudly as I possibly can,” Jackson said. “I was retired from the game for so long and I really thought my time was done before all this happened.

Australia bring more big-game experience into the China match-up, which will be their opponents’ first World Cup semi-final in 28 years.

But Brondello said the Opals would not be lulled into a false sense of security.

“You see the chemistry that they have,” she said. “Their individual players have improved every year that I’ve seen them, over my tenure as Opals coach. They’re very versatile.

“We do have more experience but they beat us last year, so it’s more about the moment and they play with a lot of confidence.”

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