BEIJING (Olympics) – New Spain sensation Alba Torrens erupted for 18 points in the second half but China did just enough to hold on for a 67-64 triumph on the opening day of the Olympics.
Bian Lan had 15 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Chinese.
The Olympic hosts finished the second quarter strong and took a 37-24 lead to the changing rooms. Nan Chen scored 10 of her 12 points in the game and also pulled down eight rebounds in the first half.
But Torrens, who played at the U18 European Championship last year, came to life and provided a spark with a series of drives and three silky-smooth shots from behind the arc.
Her final three-pointer came with 1:02 remaining following a steal by veteran point guard Elisa Aguilar and that made it 65-62 but Spain got no closer.
"We knew it was going to be a difficult game against the host nation but we had our mind set on winning it,” said Torrens.
"China started very strong and it was an uphill battle for us to try to take the lead. At the end, we came close but it didn't happen for us.”
Spain had a chance after Torrens’ last three but did not box out China captain Lijie Miao, who took the offensive rebound after point guard Song Xiaoyun’s miss with just 34 seconds on the clock.
After Bian split a pair at the line to make it 66-62, the Spanish rushed the ball up the floor and Laia Palau penetrated before attempting to pass to Cindy Lima.
The center wasn’t expecting it and the ball went out of bounds.
Spain fouled Miao and she converted one of two at the line for a five-point lead.“We won because of the first half,” said China coach Tom Maher.
“We’ve got to cut down on our mistakes, mental mistakes that just shouldn’t happen with turnovers. Our handlers turned the ball over against players they shouldn’t. Those were just gifts for them.”
Maher was also unhappy that Spain had scored a late basket after Miao’s free throw.
“You also have to realize you play for margin and we can’t give away those points at the end,” Maher said.
As for Torrens, Maher said: “She’s really special. For her to come onto the Olympic stage like that … that’s a huge increase in minutes compared to the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.”
China’s Sui Feifei sounded a note of caution after the game.
"We are very happy to have won our opening game but we will celebrate for one minute and that's it,” Feifei said.
“We still have a long way to go and we have to focus now on our next game against Team USA.”
China grabbed 48 rebounds to just 35 for Spain.
"We won the battle of the rebounds and that was very big for us tonight,” Feifei said.FIBA