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Olympic Recaps: China prevails over Australia to secure spot in quarterfinals

China improved to 2-0 in group play with a narrow victory over Australia, clinching a spot in in the Olympic quarterfinals in the process. Meanwhile, France evened their group play record at 1-1 with a convincing victory over Nigeria.

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China clinched a spot in the Olympic women’s basketball tournament with a last-second victory over Australia.
Photo by ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images

The Chinese women’s national basketball team improved to 2-0 in group play in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, defeating Australia 76-74. Australia made things interesting in the fourth quarter, outscoring China 27-21 in the frame and tying the game at 74 near the very end of regulation, but Yueru Li hit a pair of free throws with 0.6 seconds remaining to seal the deal for the Chinese.

China — who was led by Siyu Wang with 20 points and 5 rebounds — once again played excellent team basketball, assisting on 24 of its 26 made field goals. With their victory over Australia officially qualifying it for the upcoming quarterfinals, the Chinese women’s basketball team is in a position to medal at the Olympics for the first time since 1992.

Australia, meanwhile, continues its disappointing Olympic showing. While the Opals were ranked as the second-best team in the world by FIBA back in March, a pre-Olympics power ranking was far less optimistic, slotting Australia at fifth after the withdrawal of star center Liz Cambage.

The Opals haven’t exactly done much to change that projection. While rising star Ezi Magbegor (15 points and 5 rebounds) has filled in for Cambage well enough, Australia hasn’t gotten the kind of production it needs on the wing from players like Stephanie Talbot and Rebecca Allen. And, without a true go-to option, the team that likely would have been favored in Group C otherwise is now in danger of missing the Olympic tournament entirely.

France bounces back, defeats Nigeria

After dropping its Olympic opener to Japan, France turned in a much stronger performance against Nigeria, riding five double-digit scoring efforts to an 87-62 victory. Gabby Williams stuffed the box score for the French with 13 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals.

Balance was the name of the game for France. Sandrine Gruda led the team in scoring with 14 points while Williams, Marine Johannès, Alix Duchet and Endy Miyem each scored 13. France took control of the game from the get-go, taking a 44-27 lead into halftime and cruising the rest of the way.

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Gabby Williams played a strong game on both ends of the floor for France, which improved to 1-1 in group play.
Photo by THOMAS COEX/AFP via Getty Images

In addition to the obvious scoring disparity — France hit 50 percent of its field goals while Nigeria made just 35 percent — rebounding was also a significant factor. France outrebounded Nigeria 45-32, with no individual Nigerian player securing more than four rebounds in the game.

While France is still in third place in Group B behind the United States and Japan, the team is now in a good position to advance to the quarterfinals, in particular due to its recent lopsided victory. Nigeria, on the other hand, is now all but out, falling to 0-2 with few realistic avenues into the tournament.