Jackson makes history as Aussies reach semis
Australia’s Lauren Jackson became the all-time leading scorer in Olympic women’s basketball history on Tuesday, powering the Opals to a 75-60 victory over China and into the Olympic semi-finals.
Jackson, a three-time Women’s NBA (WNBA) Most Valuable Player, scored 12 points in the game to reach 536 all-time Olympic points, one more than the old mark established by Brazil’s Janeth Arcain.
“I’m happy. It’s something that’s nice,” a low-key Jackson said. “But this is a team sport.”
Australia will face the unbeaten US team of WNBA stars on Thursday in a semi-final rematch of the past three Olympic finals, all of them taken by the four-time defending champion Americans, who have won 39 Olympic games in a row.
“We continue to be gritty,” Australian coach Carrie Graf said. “If we hang tough we can make things happen for us.”
Jackson, a 1.95m centre who was Australia’s flag bearer at the Olympic opening ceremonies, sank a 3-pointer as part of a 10-0 run by the Opals that broke open a tight game and put them ahead 69-57.
She set the record on her final basket, an inside jumper with 3:45 remaining in the fourth quarter to give the Aussies a 71-58 lead and seal China’s fate.
“To break records like that is a true milestone,” Graf said. “Records like that speak volumes for the impact she has had on the world basketball scene. It speaks to the icon Lauren is to women’s basketball in Australia.”
But Graf also understood why Jackson, 31, was not overjoyed about the achievement after the Aussies lost to France in group play and were set against the US women in a semi-final rather than for gold.
“Ask her if she would like to have that France game back instead and I think she would tell you she would take that,” Graf said.
Jackson was pleased that the Opals would improve upon their fifth-place showing at the 2010 world championships, especially with six newcomers in the Olympic lineup and her own battles with nagging injuries since Beijing.
“We aren’t going to finish fifth. Now we’re back in the semi-finals and playing for a medal,” she said.
Still, she admitted, it will be odd facing the Americans without gold at stake.
“It’s strange but the last four years since Beijing have seen a lot of changes,” Jackson said. “To just get to the semi-finals and be playing for a medal again, that’s a victory for us.”
Liz Cambage led Australia with 17 points and seven rebounds while Ma Zengyu led China with 15 points.
The Aussies improved to 4-4 in world and Olympic games against China with their fourth win in a row over the Asian rivals, who have not beaten Australia in such games since 1994.
“We played a very high level for three quarters,” China coach Sun Fengwu said. “We used every effort to stay with their big players (Jackson and Cambage) but after the third quarter our conditioning gets down and they used their inside strength.”© AFP 2013
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