LONDON (Paralympics) - Up against the high octane Australian offense, the American team gambled that a lower scoreline would be to their advantage. By taking their time with the ball, the Aussies would have less time with it, thereby keeping the game close and winnable. That would have been a great plan perhaps, except for one thing - when they had the ball, the USA weren’t scoring either.
The bane for the USA in this tournament has been the propensity to be either very good or very bad when it comes to shooting consistency. It killed them in their first match against a tough Turkey side on Friday and bit them in the behind again against Australia as they fell 65-49 on Sunday.
Granted, both Turkey and Australia are big and tenacious teams which can disturb anyone’s shooting patterns but that’s not been the issue for the USA. The red, white and blue have been missing the shots they’ve worked hard to create, the open looks, the lay-ups, the shots Hall of Fame player Curtis Bell used to call, “the Bunnies”.
Australia opened the game shooting better than 60% and pushing to a SCORE lead while the Americans were going 1 for 6 and 17%. That would change as the game moved on. The USA would double their accuracy while the Rollers – Australia has nicknames for every team while the Americans are, well, just the Americans – would halve theirs with both meeting in that sub-40% range that prematurely ages coaches.
But it made the game close and exciting if not a clinic for scoring. Check that. Three Aussies – Shaun Norris, Justin Eveson, and Brad Ness - did carry the mail, scoring 16, 15, and 13 respectively while all shooting at a better than 50% clip. Tristan Knowles added 11. Eveson was a beast on the boards as well with 16 rebounds.
When the USA had chances to cut the lead, the ball just wouldn’t fall.
“We got away to a good start and we knew we had to build on that,” said Ness.
A well-paced fourth quarter that found Ness open underneath for 9 of his 13 points saw the shooting percentage rise to 45% for the game. For Australia, it’s been about a big rotation and running all 12 players at their opponents every game.
“Our game plan was to match their physicality, their speed,” said Australia coach Ben Ettridge. “They are probably 10% faster and 10% stronger than everyone else.”
Even if true, that doesn’t matter if the ball won’t go in the basket.
Here is what happened in Sunday's other games.
Canada 73 Germany 66
Only one of these teams was going to come out unbeaten and it proved to be the old guard of Canada who used a strong second quarter to separate themselves from a German team that is playing very well at the moment. Patrick Anderson, arguably the best all-around player in the game, notched his second triple-double of the tournament with 25 points, 15 rebounds, and 12 assists. Bo Hedges added 24 for Canada. Dirk Passiwan led Germany with 29 points 8 rebounds and 8 assists.
Japan 63 Colombia 49
A big game for Reo Fujimoto (27 points and 14 rebounds) helped Japan send Colombia to its fourth loss in the country’s first Paralympics. Hiroaki Kozai and Tomomi Masubuchi added 13 and 10 respectively. Nelson Sanz Londono led Colombia with 14 points and 12 rebounds while Rodney Hawkins chipped in 9 points and 17 boards.
Italy 61 South Africa 32
Marco Cavagnini scored 33 points and grabbed 17 rebounds to lead Italy, who pulled away from the South Africans after a close first quarter (13-12) to win with ease. Amine Moukhariq added 10 points and 7 assists.
Great Britain 87 Poland 58
In their best performance yet of these games, the home team totally dominated Poland, winning every quarter on their way to a 29-point win. Terry Bywater led with 22 points with Dan Highcock and Ian Sagar popping for 14 each, Simon Munn adding 12, and Jon Hall another 10. Team GB worked well together with five players having at least 4 assists out of their 31 for the game. That’s 31 assists on 38 baskets, a remarkable statistic. Marcin Balcerowski and Mateuz Filipski scored 11 and 10 respectively for Poland.
Spain 67 Turkey 64
In-form Turkey hit a wall of sorts dropping a close game to a Spain team that may be peaking as the crossover games get near. Diego de Pas Pazo’s 19 points paced the way for the Spanish with Asier Garcia Pereiro, Ismail Garcia Moreno and Alejandro Zarzuela Beltran adding 10 each. Turkey led at the half but a strong third quarter gave Spain enough room to spare as the Turks made a strong fourth quarter run. Ozgur Gurbulak led Turkey with 18 points. Cem Gezinci and Aytac Ercan added 12 each.
Germany 56 China 50
The Chinese have gradually gotten better as the tournament goes on and they showed it against a strong German team, taking a first quarter lead before seeing it disappear into a 15 deficit at the end of three. Germany was led by Gesche Schuenemann with 23, Marina Mohnen with 11, and Anika Zeyen with 12. Yun Long had 16 for China.
Mexico 50 France 42
It was the closest game for France but not enough to put them in the win column yet as they lost to Mexico by 8. Lucia Vazquez Delgadillo led Mexico with 18 with 17 coming from Floralia Estrada Bernal. French captain Angelique Quemener-Pichon led her team with 22. Blandine Belz added 12.
Canada 65 Brazil 51
Another surprising team here has been the women of Brazil but they still have a way to go before they can compete with the standard bearers such as Canada. Janet McLachlan, the tournament’s leading scorer, hit for six more than her average with 36 and added 23 rebounds as well as 5 assists. She also leads all players in rebounding. Lia Maria Soares Martins scored 26 with 11 rebounds for Brazil with Debora Cristina Guimares da Costa adding 13.
Australia 58 Netherlands 49
The nightcap at North Greenwich Arena saw Australia put away then hold off a determined Dutch team which has been playing very well in these games. Mariska Beijer who had been scoring at a 22.5 clip was held to 7 by a swarming Aussie defense. The Dutch cut a double digit deficit to 5 with two minutes to play but couldn’t keep it going. Amber Merritt scored 19 and Cobi Crispin 10 for the Gliders while Inge Huitzing picked up the slack for Holland with 14.