September 27, 2022 

What to watch in quarterfinal matchups of Sydney World Cup

Team USA to play Serbia on Wednesday night at 10 p.m. ET

The FIBA World Cup in Sydney proved to offer surprises and plenty of outstanding performances in the group stage. Next comes the knockout round, which tips off on Wednesday night on the East Coast.

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United States vs. Serbia (10 p.m. ET Wednesday)

As expected, the U.S. rolled through the group stage undefeated. It even continues to improve, breaking records along the way, such as points in a game and scoring margin.

“We just know what we’re good at,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said, “and we have players who really understand their opportunities. I think the beauty of USA Basketball is the depth of talent we have. I have enjoyed the heck out of this group. They have embraced every single thing we’ve asked them to do and have worked incredibly hard. They take great pride in the culture, the culture they are standing on. We have so much fun just putting ourselves in situations to continue what was already built.”

A’ja Wilson is tied for the World Cup lead with 18 points per game and is shooting a competition-high 72 percent from the field. Kelsey Plum is fourth in the World Cup with 15.7 points per game, and Brionna Jones is sixth with 15.3. Jones recorded 24, the most for Team USA so far, in its 145-69 demolition of Korea.

“Each game we are more critical of ourselves,” Reeve added. “From where maybe those watching, maybe everything looks perfect. It’s simply not, we want to be able to add layers to what we’re doing. We have guarded a ton of different actions that we feel good about. I don’t want to share our weaknesses, but offensively, being able to layer what we do, we are starting to understand each other, being able to share the ball, I just like the depth of what we have and how we can change the game.”

Serbia clinched a spot in the quarterfinal after a win over France on Tuesday. Yvonne Anderson is leading the World Cup in minutes (34 per game) and assists (6.4) while scoring 15.2 points, which are the seventh most. Center Tina Krajisnik is playing with a broken nose and averaging 12.4 points and 8.6 rebounds.

“We wanted to show the next step as a team, and each game we’re getting better,” said Anderson, who graduated from Texas two years before U.S. guard Ariel Atkins arrived on campus.

The U.S. defeated Serbia, 88-69, in their previous meeting at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in February 2020 in Belgrade.

Canada vs. Puerto Rico (12:30 a.m. ET Thursday)

Puerto Rico defeated Canada in the semifinals of the AmeriCup, 65-61, three months ago in San Juan, playing without the two players who have starred in Sydney. Arella Guirantes is leading the World Cup with 90 points (tied with Wilson at 18 per game), and Mya Hollingshed is averaging 15 and scored 29 versus Korea. Bridget Carleton of Canada is ninth in the World Cup at 14. 8 points game and scored 27 against Mali. Also, center Kayla Alexander is second in Sydney in rebounding at 11.4 per game and is also scoring 10 per contest.

“We put so much emphasis and so much focus into preparation,” Canada center Natalie Achonwa said, “that I believe that the work we’ve done, and I believe in [head coach] Victor [Lapena] so much, and I believe in the plan so much, that it negates the nervousness. We will respect every opponent the same, but I’m just excited.”

China vs. France (4 a.m. ET Thursday)

China is second to the U.S. in nearly every statistical category and is scoring 88.8 per game. Meanwhile, France is ninth at 63.6 points per game and is struggling to rebound the ball, and was 10th in the group stage.

“We are going to be more focused,” France coach Jean Aime Toupane said. “We know that’s [rebounding] part of the game. If you look at the profile of the team, since the beginning of the tournament, [rebounding] is going to be one thing we improve, of course.”

China blew out France, 103-70, in the World Cup qualifying at Belgrade in February. Li Meng is leading the team with 14.6 points per game. Gabby Williams of France is fifth in the World Cup, scoring 15.6 per game.

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Australia vs. Belgium (6:30 a.m. ET Thursday)

Belgium losing Emma Meesseman to injury changed the dynamic of the tournament. Belgium is getting 12 points per game from Kyara Linskens and Julie Vanloo, but it will miss Meesseman, who scored 32 in its 85-70 win over Australia in the opening game of the Tokyo Olympics. Bec Allen is leading a balanced attack from the Opals with 13 points.

“We accomplished our goal of finishing on top of our group,” Australia coach Sandy Brondello said. “We’re really proud of our persistence. We wanted to show the next step as a team, and each game we’re getting better and being able to stay tough on both ends of the floor. We’re really excited and hopefully, we can keep building. We have to make sure we stay focused and play our game. Our defense is why we’re here, and that’s what we have to focus on as we move forward.”

Brondello also mentioned that why Lauren Jackson played sparingly in the previous game with Japan was due to the matchup. Japan was athletic and small, and not a game where Jackson was needed in the post.

Written by Scott Mammoser

Scott Mammoser has covered major international events for FIBA, World Athletics and the International Skating Union. He has been to six Olympics and traveled to more than 90 countries.

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