Photo taken on Sept. 22, 2018 shows the hair of Senegal's Yacine Diop during the Group D match between the U.S. and Senegal at the 2018 FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup at Quico Cabrera Arena in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. (Xinhua/Zheng Huansong)
TENERIFE, Spain, Sept. 22 (Xinhua) -- The star-studded United States shrugged off a sluggish start to breeze past Senegal 87-67 at the 2018 FIBA Women's World Cup here on Saturday.
China, fresh from their Asian Games gold medal, fended off debutantes Latvia 64-61 in the other Group D matchup.
The United States, in quest for their third consecutive crown, found themselves 10-2 down due to lack of connections between starters, before they tied the score at 12-all with two minutes remaining. Elena Delle Donne's shot beyond the arc earned the basketball powerhouse an 18-17 lead as the first quarter expired.
After recording 25-all on the scoreboard, the United States saw improvement in their offensive efficiency. The world No. 1 team used consecutive fast breaks to pull away as they led by 45-31 into the halftime. Senegal came no closer than 11 points throughout the second half.
Four American players scored double-figure points, led by Donne's 19. Nneka Ogwumike and A'Ja Wilson helped with 16 and 15 points respectively.
"Senegal came out aggressively. They made some shots, and we didn't make some simple shots," American player Breanna Stewart, who scored 14, explained the reason for her team's poor start.
China clinched a last-second victory over Latvia as guard 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. Yang scored 10.
China were out-rebounded 49-39, including 22 offensive rebounds for Latvia, and the Chinese made just 18 of 31 free throws. Captain Shao Ting finished with a team-high 15 points. Wang Siyu added 10.
After both teams failed to score several attacks into the match, Li Yueru opened China's scoring on second chance.
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.
China will face the United States in Group D's second round match on Sunday, while Latvia take on Senegal.
Stewart, who had played for Chinese league side Shanghai, showed her excitement about the duel against China.
"Playing against China tomorrow will be exciting. I have played against a majority of the players in WCBA. I'm looking forward to it," she said.
Liz Cambage spearheaded Australia to an 86-68 victory over Nigeria with 34 points and 12 rebounds. Spain pleased the home crowd as they beat Japan 84-71.
Other favorites also fared through their Saturday's test. France crushed South Korea 89-58, and Canada downed Greece 81-50.
In both teams' maiden appearance at the World Cup, Belgium battered Puerto Rico 86-36. Elsewhere, Turkey marched past Argentina 63-37.
Getting underway since Saturday, the 2018 FIBA Women's World Cup will run until September 30. After each of the 16 teams plays three preliminary round games, the second and third place teams from each of the four groups will compete in the quarterfinal qualification games. The top teams from each group will advance directly to the quarterfinals.