'Wake-up call': Opals left stunned by Belgium barrage in Tokyo

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·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
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Ezi Magbegor led the Opals with 20 points and eight rebounds against Belgium.
Opals star Ezi Magbegor finished with 20 points and eight rebounds, but it wasn't enough to halt the impressive momentum of Belgium, who romped to an 85-70 win. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The Australian Opals have suffered a setback in their quest to return to the Olympic podium, dropping their first match of the tournament after an impressive showing from Belgium.

After a somewhat sloppy start the Opals, who are without WNBA All-Star Liz Cambage, settled into the game nicely to open up a lead in the second quarter.

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Though they controlled the game in the first half, a red-hot second half from Belgium, combined with carelessness with the ball, saw the Opals forfeit a 85-70 loss.

It was a disappointing start to the tournament for the Opals, who had impressed by beating the USA in a practice match leading into the Olympics.

Ezi Magbegor (20 points, eight rebounds), Cayla George (12 points, 10 rebounds, four assists) and Katie Ebzery (11 points, nine rebounds, six assists) all played well, but their efforts weren't enough to overcome a woeful 14 turnovers as a team.

By comparison, Belgium gave the ball back just five times for the game, making the most of their opportunities in transition to put the Opals under pressure.

A powerhouse performance from Emma Meesseman (32 points, nine rebounds, five assists) steered Belgium to the impressive win, which comes after the European nation finished fourth at the 2018 FIBA World Cup.

The Opals, who have Puerto Rico and China in their group, can still progress to the quarter-final stage with wins later in the tournament.

Fans of the team were disappointed by the surprise loss, but equally impressed by Belgium's strong performance.

Boomers shrug off Nigeria in first-up win

Australian coach Brian Goorjian saw enough in a messy 84-67 win over Nigeria to assure him their quest for a maiden Olympic basketball medal is on track in Tokyo.

Flagbearer Patty Mills led the side with 25 points on five-of-eight three point shooting as the Boomers kept Nigeria to 27 points in the second half.

The Boomers forced 24 turnovers and constantly threatened to sneak away, only for Nigeria to rally and make it a five-point game at the final break.

A nervy finish looked inevitable before a costly unsportsmanlike foul by Chimezie Metu on Matthew Dellavedova (eight points, three rebounds, three assists) opened the door for the Boomers.

Metu was also given a technical foul for remonstrating in what became a four-point play that saw the forward ejected.

Mills nailed another three-pointer soon after as the lead swelled into double digits for the first time.

The Boomers, who had 21 turnovers of their own and shot at 39 per cent from the field, were also let off the hook by Nigeria's poor 12-of-24 free throw shooting.

"The areas of concern for us in the game were expected; we were choppy in the half-court ... and the flow of the game we made a lot of poor decisions," Goorjian said.

"But this group ... we've focused on defence and I thought that was good and got better and was the reason for the victory."

With AAP

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