Upsets early in Olympic pool play with France and Australia reeling
Australia vs Belgium
Well that was…dominant. Whether it was an overreaction to the Aussies win over the USA in an exhibition game or media outlets simply not knowing the prowess of the Belgian squad, a veteran led Australian team was supposed to handle the first time Olympians with relative ease.
Favored by 7.5 points, the Opals took a four point lead into the half behind Ezi Magbegor, the Seattle Storm forward who is truly breaking out of her shell. But, everything changed in the fourth quarter, and it all starts with Emma Meesseman.
WNBA fans know her as a Finals MVP, but her biggest legacy may be on an internationally level. Meesseman finished with 32 points, 9 boards, and 5 assists, with teammate Julie Allemand adding 16 points and 11 dimes.
It was an offensive masterclass by Meesseman, and after another dominant performance in Belgium’s 87-52 win over Puerto Rico they are just one game against China away from going undefeated in pool play.
Japan vs France
Picked to finish fourth (last) in their pool, Japan snuck up on the French in their opening game at home. It was a combination of the three-point line and the foul stripe that propelled the Japanese to victory, shooting 41% from beyond the arc and outdrawing France is foul shots 23 to 6.
The French guards struggled from the floor and should have been more aggressive inside against a smaller opponent in Japan. Gabby Williams forced 6 turnovers and Sandrine Gruda scored 18, but it was the balanced attack of Japan that saw 35 points scored off the bench that was too much to handle.
France’s game against Nigeria this morning was a must win, as they shift their focus to team USA and will need a good showing to ensure a spot in the bracket.
Japan on the other hand put on an impressive performance against the Americans early this morning. Eventually the likes of Brittney Griner and A’ja Wilson finally started using their size for easy buckets inside and Japan’s jump shots got cold. The Japanese team still controls their own destiny going forward.
Spain vs Serbia
While it may not have been as surprising as the first two games, Spain knocking off Serbia after falling to them in EuroBasket is a huge start to their tournament.
The big difference between the two contests is that the most recent match up featured Spanish superstar Alba Torrens, who missed the European Championships with an injury. She led the team with 25 points, and Astou Ndour added 20 and 9 in the win.
Spain’s defense was a big factor, and they held Sonja Vasic to just 11 points for Serbia. The Spaniards will face Canada in a pivotal matchup for seeding in the quarterfinals.