The Jayco Australian Opals have endured a tough opening match of their European campaign, defeated by Serbia 75-54 at Vrsac Millennium Hall in the early hours of Sunday morning.

It was a full-strength line-up from the home team, with Serbia zeroing in on qualifying for the 2016 Rio Games in a few weeks’ time at the European Championships

“I expect us to improve,” said Head Coach Brendan Joyce. “It’s our first game after travel against very strong opposition. Credit to Serbia, they played hard and executed very well.”

Danielle Page was top-scorer for the home side with 13 points while Tamara Radočaj scored 12 and Kristina Topuzović managed 10 points. Jayco Australian Opals’ Vice-Captain Suzy Batkovic netted 10 points from 16 minutes of play, while debutants Maddie Garrick and Stephanie Talbot each scored 9, and Captain Laura Hodges scored 8.

Joyce was particularly pleased with the third quarter where the Opals went point-for-point against the home side.

“What really stood out was that we have to adjust to the physicality that Serbia play with,” he assessed.

“We had a very high turnover rate and if you’re turning the ball over it makes is very difficult to win. The other area that we’ve got to focus on is improving our containment in the defensive end.

“We had a lot of opportunities to make shots. We’ve got to have some scoreboard pressure.”

The Jayco Australian Opals took to the court with three players on international debut – Garrick, Talbot and Katie-Rae Ebzery while there were significant changes in personnel from the 2014 FIBA World Championships. The Opals will spend the next few weeks on the continent in the lead in to the Oceania Championships in August.

“This is what we came away for; I want us to play quality opposition,” said Joyce. “We’ve got younger players here or players that don’t have a lot of international experience.

“Our big picture is to beat New Zealand in about three months time.”

The Jayco Australian Opals will play a second match against Serbia on Monday night, local time (0400 Tuesday AEST).

Serbia 75 defeated Australia 54

Q1: 18-15
Q2: 36-24
Q3: 54-42
Q4: 75-54