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Action Jackson: Lauren turns back clock as Opals blow Belgium away while Allen races clock to be fit for semi

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30th September, 2022

Australian basketball legend Lauren Jackson put in a vintage display as the Australian Opals surged into the World Cup semi-final stage with a comprehensive 86-69 win over Belgium in Sydney on Thursday night.

Jackson put in her best performance of the tournament in the 41-year-old’s return to international play as the Opals overcame their plucky quarter-final opponents at Qudos Bank Arena.

The former WNBA MVP scored 12 points in 14 minutes and came up with several crafty defensive plays off the bench to back up her younger teammates.

“It was really special to get the win and be vying for a medal again, it means so much,” Jackson told ESPN after the game.

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“I’ll do whatever I’m told to do, I just want to play and win. We’ve been winning and I’m just cheering these girls on. They’re incredible and I’m so proud of them.”

Opals legend Michele Timms said post-game on ESPN that Jackson looked determined from the moment she stepped on the floor,

“She had that look in her eye, she had that steel face that anyone who’s played with Lauren Jackson knows what it looks like,” Timms said. “You knew she wanted it, you knew she was ready to give something to this program like she does every time she steps out onto the court.”


Australia led 26-16 after the first quarter and continued their momentum to open up a 52-37 buffer at the main break.

Belgium upped their defensive pressure in the third quarter but the Opals held firm to make it 72-48 heading into the final term on the back of a Tess Madgen three-pointer on the buzzer.

They started the final quarter on an 8-0 run to cut the deficit to 16 before the Opals kicked clear again down the stretch.

Power forward Cayla George was also outstanding for the host nation, logging a game-high 19 points and bringing down nine rebounds.

Sara Blicavs (12) and Marianna Tolo (13) also registered double-figure scoring nights.

Opals forward Bec Allen made a return to the court after sitting out two matches out with a rib injury.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 29: Lauren Jackson of Australia in action during the 2022 FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup Quarterfinal match between Australia and Belgium at Sydney Superdome, on September 29, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Allen only spent 2:25 minutes on the floor and appeared to be in discomfort so was not risked any further by coach Sandy Brondello.

After copping a heavy knock against Serbia earlier in the week, there were fears she may not suit up again in the tournament.

She was seen wiping tears away after the game against Belgium. “I’m struggling, I think everyone knows,” an emotional Allen told reporters. “I really needed to try for myself. Not today, but hopefully tomorrow (in the semi-final).”

The Opals are determined to keep giving Allen opportunities to prove her fitness, but coach Sandy Brondello said she would not be pressured to play. “She’s a game time decision,” Brondello told reporters.

“Bec is an important part of this team but if she can’t go, I’m not going to try and force her. We’ve got quality players that can replace her.”

Australia will hope to avenge the last-gasp loss they suffered against the same opponents at the Tokyo Olympics.


Earlier in the day, China progressed to Friday’s final four match-ups with an 85-71 triumph over China while unbackable title favourites Team USA vanquished Serbia 88-55 to set up their semi-final showdown with Canada, who eliminated Puerto Rico 79-60.

The US have now racked up 28 wins on the trot in World Cup matches, a national record but half the overall mark set by the Soviet Union, who had 56 straight victories from 1959-86.

Natalie Achonwa starred for Canada as they stormed into their second World Cup semi-final and first since 1986. Three-time defending champions USA may be without wing Kahleah Copper after she suffered a hip injury against Serbia.