Australia stuns U.S. women in pre-Olympic exhibition
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Australia handed the U.S. women their second straight loss in pre-Olympic exhibitions on Friday, getting 17 points from Ezi Magbegor to win 70-67.
The Americans, who got together as a team for the first time earlier this week, were beaten by a team of WNBA All-Stars on Wednesday night.
Breanna Stewart's three-point play tied the game at 66 with 2:59 left before Magbegor hit a layup and Marianna Tolo made a reverse layup with 2 minutes remaining to give Australia a 70-66 advantage.
The U.S. missed seven straight shots before Brittney Griner was fouled with 17 seconds left. She made one of two free throws.
After a timeout, the U.S. committed four consecutive fouls to try and get Australia to the foul line. After the fourth foul, Australia turned the ball over with 10.9 seconds left, but Stewart's 3-pointer before the buzzer was off the mark. She scored 17 points to lead the U.S, which finished 2 of 18 from 3-point range.
The loss comes on the heels of the U.S. men dropping exhibitions against Nigeria and Australia this week.
The Opals' victory came hours after star center Liz Cambage withdrew from the team, citing mental and physical health concerns. She had been worried about the experience at the Tokyo Games, with players isolated in a bubble-like environment. Cambage posted a statement on social media late Thursday night saying the prospect of having no friends, no family, no fans and no support system outside the women’s basketball squad was “honestly terrifying.”
Even without Cambage, the Australians put forth a stellar effort. The Opals were down 13 at the half before rallying against the No. 1 team in the world that has a 49-game winning streak in the Olympics.
Australia took a 59-58 advantage early in the fourth — its first lead since the second quarter. The Opals increased the lead to 66-62 with 3:25 left before the Americans tied it.
Australia led 25-24 early in the second quarter before the U.S. closed the period with a 17-3 run. Stewart had eight points during the spurt.
The Americans led 41-28 at the half before Australia got back into the game behind solid outside shooting to trail 56-51 heading into the fourth quarter.
The U.S. will be trying to win a seventh consecutive gold medal at the Tokyo Games.
The Americans were missing Diana Taurasi, who suffered a hip injury in practice a few weeks ago and missed the final three games before the Olympic break for the Phoenix Mercury. She was on a stationary bike warming up before the game.
The U.S. will face Nigeria in an exhibition on Sunday before heading to Tokyo. The Americans also open pool play at the Olympics against Nigeria.
The game was supposed to be part of a doubleheader against Australia, with the U.S. men facing the team that beat them earlier in the week. The men's game was canceled late Thursday because of health and safety protocols.
The cancellation came hours after Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal was ruled out of the Olympics after being placed in COVID-19 health and safety protocols. The team also said Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant also was in the protocols “out of an abundance of caution.”
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