23 September 2006
Game Report, Australia vs Russia, 91-74 - Gold Medal Game
São Paulo / Brazil - Australia’s women clinched their first world title on Saturday with 91-74 thumping of Russia. Just when Igor Grudin’s players believed they had cleared their biggest hurdle with a semi-final upset of the United States - the team that had defeated them in the last two FIBA World Championship finals - they ran into a buzzsaw from Down Under.
Beaten finalists at the last two Olympic Games by Team USA, the Opals travelled to Brazil determined to snatch gold and they accomplished the feat in style against Russia with Penny Taylor exploding for 28 points.
Australia’s glorious run at the FIBA Women Championship for Women had a little bit of everything.
They started with a win after a forfeit by Lithuania, who had trouble gaining to Brazil from French Guyana, and the Opals survived close calls against Spain in the second group stage and Brazil in the semi-final before achieving the ultimate with a surprisingly easily, 17-point triumph over Russia to capture gold.
Taylor was sensational from start to finish in Brazil, with her efforts in the last two games making her the obvious choice for the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award.
She poured in a game-high 26 points in the semi-final triumph.
Russia had a promising start and led 9-2 but the Aussies began to heat up. Jenny Whittle’s three-ball capped an 8-0 run for a 10-9 advantage midway through the opening period.
After a Maria Stepanova basket put Russia back in front, Taylor struck with a three-pointer and Australia edged back ahead at 13-11.
An Olga Arteshina jump shot put the Europeans back in front at 15-13, but that would prove to be their last lead.
Belinda Snell, whose incredible 22-point performance was crucial for the Opals against Brazil two days ago, nailed a three-pointer to spark an 11-0 run for a 24-15 lead.
Russia managed to cut the deficit back to six at 26-20 but a Lauren Jackson lay-up started another 11-0 surge as Australia went in front at 37-20.
Igor Grudin’s team fought like tigers to get back into the contest and when Tatiana Shchegoleva scored down low, they trailed the Oceania giants 43-35 at the half.
The Australians started the second half stronger, though, and when Snell knocked down her second three-ball of the day, the lead had ballooned to 53-37 with 7:16 to in the third quarter.
An Ilona Korstin jumper pulled Russia to within 70-60 early in the fourth quarter, but Jan Stirling’s team were never under serious threat the rest of the way.
Taylor finished nine of 14 from the floor, including three of five (60%) from three-point range. She was also seven of nine (78%) at the line.
As a team, Australia shot very well from long range, making nine of 22 (41%).
They out-rebounded Russia 38-27, as both Taylor and Jackson had nine boards apiece.
Kristi Harrower provided additional evidence that she is among the best point guards in the world, scoring 15 points, dishing out five assists and very importantly, quickening the tempo for the Aussies.
Jackson had 16 points.
The Russians were six of 17 (35%) from three-point range, but inside the arc they were 22 of 52 (42%) compared to Australia’s 23 of 38 (61%).
Stepanova had 17 points and 13 rebounds for Russia.
By Jeff Taylor, exclusively for FIBA