By Paulo Kennedy - Guest Writer during the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women.
What a start to the FIBA World Championship for Women that was.
Facing the FIBA Americas champions who are known for their emotional play, the Aussies cut the head off the snake with a 23-6 opening quarter.
The Cubans showed just how dangerous they can be in the second term, but the Australians had more than enough contributors to shut the door on any challenge.
So coach Brendan Joyce would be a very happy man, right? I'm not so sure.
No doubt he allowed himself a smile about such an incredibly emphatic win, but when he looked at the boxscore and saw 18 turnovers, and 16 offensive rebounds for the Cubans, that grin would have disappeared quickly.
The reality is if the Jayco Opals gift an opponent 34 possessions in the knockout rounds they will probably be packing their bags shortly after.
So expect that to be the focus in tonight’s game against Korea.
The Jayco Opals were devastating in the open court against Cuba, exposing their lax transition defence and forcing their free-wheeling opponents to constantly take the ball out of the basket.
Of course, as the game wears on mistakes are bound to happen in a fast-paced style, but to succeed at the pointy end of the tournament those turnovers have to be kept to a minimum.
It’s a fine balance Joyce and Co have to walk.
Belarus had great success in transition against Korea, so expect another aggressive approach from the Aussies, but perhaps with a little more restraint when it comes to the more ambitious lead passes.
While much has been made of the fact the Koreans have sent a development team to Turkey 2014, they showed against Belarus they should not be trifled with.
The FIBA Asia silver medallists burst to 14-point lead early in the second term and, after Belarus had charged back to a match-winning position, peeled off a 19-6 fourth-quarter run to almost pinch victory.
It was the traditional Korean jump shooting that sparked both runs, and the Jayco Opals will know from watching the tape they have to defend well past the arc and force either drives or contested long bombs.
Choi Hee-Jin was particularly deadly from range, while the usually accurate Kim Youn-Joo is unlikely to shoot 1-of-12 again after her horror opening.
The other key to Korea’s game is their pressure defence, which forced 18 Belarusian turnovers leading directly to 21 points, almost a third of their total score.
The Jayco Opals were mostly clinical when Cuba upped the defensive pressure on opening night, and more of the same will be needed so Penny Taylor can pick apart the weakened help defence.
The x-factor for Korea is 15-year-old centre Park Ji-Su, who at 195cm made an impressive world championship debut with 15 points and six rebounds.
The Korean guards were happy to pressure the ball with Park guarding the paint, and early on Belarus fell into the trap of funnelling their drives into the young giant.
The key for the Aussies is to move the ball and draw Park away from the basket defending ball-screens. If she is unwilling to do so then open shots will abound, whether the Koreans are in man or zone defence.
But as with the opening game it is important the Jayco Opals attack the basket before settling for jumpers, so long rebounds don’t become outlet passes for their speedy opponents.
It was a very impressive start to the tournament for the Australians, but at the same time there is plenty of work to do in key areas.
While the Jayco Opals focus on better decision-making and rebounding on secondary rotations, look for their pressure defence and quick rotations to once again wear their opponent down and seal a place in the knockout phase.