Without star players Lauren Jackson, Penny Taylor, Kristi Harrower, Belinda Snell and Erin Phillips the Opals were outmuscled and outclassed by their stronger and more athletic opponents.
The American victory highlighted the superior depth of talent available in the US, as the number 1 ranked team was also without a number of its stars.
Sydney Uni Flames forward Natalie Porter worked hard to lead Australia with 13 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists while Rohanee Cox added some offensive punch off the bench to register 12 points.
Tina Thompson, the top pick of the 1997 WNBA Draft and an 11-year veteran of the league, led all scorers with 21 points.
“The focus of this whole tour has been to establish players in our group that can contribute at the high international level both physically and mentally,” Opals head coach Jan Stirling said.
“Our intention will be to play all players again in Game 2 and our focus is to improve on today’s result by being a greater competitive and cohesive unit which we were unable to demonstrate today.
“Gaining Tully Bevilaqua after her WNBA commitments helped in our backcourt.”
The Australian Defence Force Opals struggled to score from the outset against intense pressure but their committed defence kept the score line close and after one quarter they trailed, 18-9.
The under-strength Aussies found their range in the second quarter but by half time they trailed by fourteen points, 39-25.
The Americans continued the physical onslaught after the break and with one quarter to play they led by twenty three points, 65-42.
Australia never gave up and finished with its highest scoring quarter (22 points) but the result was never in doubt as the Americans cruised to a 32 point victory.
The Opals battled gamely on the boards but were out-rebounded 34 to 28, with the greatest factor in the game being the USA’s high shooting percentage (69 per cent) versus the Opals’ 40 per cent.
Both teams ran their full benches and the youngest member of the Australian Defence Force Opals, Abby Bishop, enjoyed 11 minutes on court and gained worthwhile senior international experience.
The Opals will now travel to Connecticut for the second of two friendlies, with the game tipping off at 9am AEST on Thursday September 20.
They then head back to Australia for a 48 hour break before continuing on to New Zealand for the 2007 FIBA Oceania Championship for Women.
“Our NZ games will see a younger squad represent the Opals with the inclusion of Marianna Tolo, who was a member of the Under-19 Gems team who played recently in the World Championship,” Stirling said.
“Additionally, Abby Bishop, Renae Camino and Kathleen Macleod will also join us for the NZ games.”
USA 96 – T Thompson 21, C Wiggins 18, P Courtney 12 def
AUSTRALIA 64 – N Porter 13, R Cox 12, E Randall 8
photo Getty Images
photo Getty Images