After a blowout 86-69 win over Belgium, Australia is set to face off against the young, dominant squad of China, playing for a spot in the gold medal match against the USA.
China is a team full of youngsters who are undoubtedly proven. Some of their players include Han Xu and Li Yueru, both who are currently playing in the WNBA with the New York Liberty and Chicago Sky, respectively. They have an undoubtable height advantage on almost every single team but with great height comes great weakness. Here are the keys to the game for the Aussies.
1. Force China to play on the perimeter.
A benefit to China's game is their height and post play. They have a triple threat of big players including the aforementioned Xu and Yueru. Both of them come off the bench and play critical roles, though another player to watch for is Huang Sijing.
Sijing is the primary scoring threat down low in the starting lineup for the Chinese. She is in the starting lineup and plays a critical role in setting the pace on the low block. She is leading the team in efficiency with 17.2 and is fourth in points per game with 9.2 and third in rebounds per game with 5.3.
Interestingly, China is extremely smart in its rotations and doesn't necessarily use its star talent in its first five. In comes Xu. Xu is second in scoring with 12.0 points per game and first in rebounds with 8.3. She is also second in efficiency with 16.2. At 205 cm, she is able to spread the floor and shoot the midrange, as well as dominate down low. She will be a guaranteed threat coming off the bench for China that Australia must contain as soon as possible.
2. Emphasise guard play.
As stated, China's primary game is down low with Sijing, Xu, and Yieru in a three-person rotation. Although it might be intriguing to pound down low to attempt to get their posts in foul trouble, it won't be the smart move throughout the game.
The preferable game plan against the Chinese would be prioritising shooting with their guards and spreading the floor on the perimeter and in the midrange.
That's not to say that the Opals shouldn't test down low. One cannot rely on just playing on one section of the court and relying on certain positions the whole entire game. For Australia, an emphasis on guards like Sami Whitcomb and her prolific shooting will give a boost to their offence against a brick wall down low.
3. Contain Li Meng.
China doesn't just rely on a game plan of play down low. Undoubtedly, their best guard, and overall probably their best player, is the 183 cm Li Meng.
If you want offence, and a shooter that will produce buckets outside of the paint, Meng is the player to do those things. Meng is leading China in points with 16.0 per game with extremely efficient shooting numbers all around.
She's shooting sub 47 per cent from the field and 41 per cent from beyond the arc. She is the shooter but not a facilitator. She is slippery off ball and can move through screens to get open and is not afraid to drive it on the opposing team's posts. Meng is a handful on her own that Australia will have to buckle down right when the tip is thrown.
The Australian Opals take on China in the semi-final of the FIBA Women's World Cup on Friday, September 30 from 7.30pm.
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