Cambage's Games debut turns foul

Guy Hand, NZ Newswire July 29, 2012, 2:59 pm

Australian women's basketball coach Carrie Graf hopes superstar-in-waiting Liz Cambage has shaken the nerves which cruelled any chance of a bright start to her Olympics.

Cambage, 20, was pumped up for her first match at an Olympics, but was ultimately flattened by early foul trouble in the Opals' 16-point win over Great Britain on Saturday.

Skipper Lauren Jackson spearheaded the win, while Cambage - rated Australian basketball's rising superstar - was restricted to a handful of minutes and little impact as she racked up three fouls by early in the second quarter.

But Graf and Jackson have backed Cambage to come out firing in the Opals' next Group B match against France on Monday.

"She definitely was nervous and that impacted her focus," Graf said.

"One of her (pre-match) goals was to breathe. I think that indicates where she was with her emotions.

"It's good for Liz to get that one under her belt. Now she can buckle down and play basketball.

"She's young, but her emotional skills are still a work-in-progress."

Jackson and Graf have paid special attention leading into the Games to what Graf calls keeping Cambage's `basketball thermostat' steady.

And her mentor Jackson is confident with game one out of the way, Cambage will now provide the focal point the Opals will need to make the gold medal match and topple nemesis the United States.

"She'll probably come out now and get 30 (points) and 10 (rebounds)," Jackson said.

"We need her to get her points, get her shots, and we need her on court."

Earlier the US delivered a frightening display of their depth in beating Group A rivals Croatia 81-56 to begin their gold medal defence.

All 10 players had court time, and scored as the US unbeaten streak at Olympics stretched to 34 games.

Tina Charles scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, while Angel McCoughtry added energy from the bench with 13 points.

The US haven't been beaten at a Games since the 1992 semi-finals.