Cambage lifts to help Opals into semis

By Guy Hand, NZ Newswire August 8, 2012, 6:35 am

A halftime rocket for Opals star Liz Cambage helped her launch the Opals into the Olympic women's basketball semi-finals.

The Opals will now play gold medal favourites United States in Thursday's semi-final after a 75-60 quarter-final victory over China, helped by Cambage's 17 points and seven rebounds.

But coach Carrie Graf admitted Cambage's big second half - which helped the Opals scratch and claw their way past a gritty China - came after the 20-year-old star was told some home truths during the break about her first half defensive efforts.

"She had her lesson tonight," Graf said.

"Defensively she wasn't in the game in the first half, and it hurt us.

"To her credit, she had a few words spoken to her at halftime, and she came out and re-focused.

"She got it done at both ends of the floor. They're the lessons you learn, and it'll make sure she's focused from the start for the next game."

In the most blue collar of wins, Cambage's haul was backed up by some critical late third quarter Australian defence and superb impact from bench guard Sam Richards and back-up Abby Bishop.

Richards was front and centre in important defensive plays late in the period, and turned both stops into assists for Jenna O'Hea baskets which gave Australia back a lead they had surrendered.

Taking a three-point lead into the final period, Cambage turned catalyst - her three-point play early in the term giving the Australians a seven-point advantage.

Then Lauren Jackson's three-pointer took the lead out to double digits and sent Australia into a semi-final showdown with the team which has beaten the Opals in the past three Olympic finals.

Jackson also finally broke the record as Olympic women's basketball's all-time scorer, which officials had wrongly credited her with earlier in the tournament.

She moved past Brazilian Janeth Arcain's 535 points late in the final term on her way to 12 points for the match.

Ma Zengyu led China's scorers with 15.

Earlier the US showed ominous signs in a 91-48 pummelling of Canada in their quarter-final - Diana Taurasi scoring 15 points.

They are chasing their 40th successive Olympic victory against Australia in the semi at North Greenwich Arena.

Their win against Canada for No.39 came 20 years to the day after the victory that started the extraordinary streak - their bronze medal win over Cuba in 1992.