China fend off Latvia in FIBA Women's World Cup opener (updated)

Source: Xinhua| 2018-09-22 22:38:08|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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TENERIFE, Spain, Sept. 22 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese women's basketball team started their FIBA World Cup campaign with a 64-61 victory over Latvia in the tournament's opener here on Saturday.

Yang Liwei grabbed the decisive rebound before being fouled by her opponent. She converted both free throws with 2.4 seconds left on the clock to give China a three-point lead.

Captain Shao Ting finished with a team-high 15 points for China. Yang Liwei and Wang Siyu scored 10 points apiece. China were out-rebounded 49-39, including 22 offensive rebounds for Latvia, and the Chinese made just 18 of 31 free throws.

China's head coach Xu Limin expressed dissatisfaction after the match. "We didn't play at a high level, mainly through missing boards and free throws," the coach said.

Adjustments needed to be made early as both teams failed to score several attacks into the match. Li Yueru opened China's scoring.

"It was the first match at the World Cup, and our first outing against a European team in competitive matches this year," admitted Chinese center Sun Mengran.

Following a 7-6 lead, China compiled a double-digit lead through a 10-0 spurt midway through the first quarter, forcing Latvia to take a timeout with 2 minutes and 24 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.

Latvia searched for more body contact inside the paint, and they responded with a 10-0 run kicked off by Aija Putnina's two free throws and extended until the start of the second quarter.

China snapped their slide two minutes into the second period on a pair of free throws from Shao Ting, but their opponents managed to stay in contention as China narrowly led 31-30 at halftime.

Latvia led for the first time since the tip-off at 32-31 on Elina Dikaioulaku's free throws after the interval, and went further ahead as Anete Steinberga scored six points in a row.

At 38-34 down, China made timely adjustments to shore up their defense with promising center Han Xu on the court. Han's free throw sparked another 10-0 run, but Latvia tied the score at 44-all heading into the final 12 minutes. China nailed their triumphant opener through Yang's shots from the free throw line.

"We didn't protect the rebounds well, even though we knew our opponents would attach great importance to that," Sun Mengran pointed out.

Latvia received a game-high 16 points and 11 rebounds from Steinberga. Dikaioulaku added 14.

China will face title favorites the United States in Group D's second round match on Sunday, while Latvia take on Senegal.

"Although the United States are a powerhouse in women's basketball, it does not mean that they can do everything. Playing against them is a blessing for us. We need to focus on details and do our best, rather than play at will on the court," Xu pointed out.

After each of the 16 teams plays three preliminary round games at the 2018 FIBA World Cup, the second and third place teams from each of the four preliminary round groups will compete in the quarterfinal qualification games. The top teams from each group will advance directly to the quarterfinals.