Australian Opals thrash China in FIBA Asia Cup warm-up

A gold medal is always the goal - and now Opals coach Sandy Brondello says anything less at the FIBA Asia Cup will be a failure.

The Opals closed out their Asia Cup preparations with a 35-point thrashing of China at the AIS Arena on Thursday night.

Ezi Magbegor was a standout off the bench for the Opals in their dominant win over China. Picture: Jamila Toderas

Ezi Magbegor was a standout off the bench for the Opals in their dominant win over China. Picture: Jamila Toderas

Rising star Ezi Magbegor laid the platform for the dominant 98-63 win as she shone off the bench with a game-high 20 points, while Bec Allen added 15 for the hosts.

Magbegor's outing came after an indifferent showing in two games behind closed doors - but as soon as the bright lights came on she proved why Brondello believes "she's special, she's unique".

It was a perfect way to wrap up preparations for the Asia Cup in front of more than 3000 basketball fans in Canberra.

The Asia Cup's highest ranked team will enter the Asia Cup with a chip on their shoulder, fuelled by the heartbreak of a one-point defeat in the final of the previous edition.

The world's No. 3 outfit will arrive in India bereft of star players like Marianna Tolo but the Opals are set to get a massive boost with star guard Leilani Mitchell set to link up with the squad before they board their flight.

They will need every bit of her class as the Opals set a gold medal as the pass mark for their Asia Cup campaign.

"Definitely. We have high expectations for ourselves," Brondello said.

"Everything is important now, we're leading into the Olympics with all of these qualifications. If we finish No. 1, it gives us a better ranking and a better group for the November qualifier.

"If you finish No. 1 there, you have a No. 1 seed going into a pre-Olympics. Last time there was a pre-Olympics, I was actually a part of that team and we missed out on going to Barcelona. I know what it feels like.

"These girls are very professional. I don't have to push them too much, because they push themselves."

Australia's Katie Ebzery. Picture: Jamila Toderas

Australia's Katie Ebzery. Picture: Jamila Toderas

Australia endured a slow start but it was only a matter of time before the hosts kicked clear in the third period with an 18-point run which ultimately put the result beyond doubt heading into the final quarter.

Opals star Stephanie Talbot slotted straight into the side a day after arriving home from the United States but 11 points and two steals seems like enough to suggest she had been in Canberra all week.

"Adapting to the group is easy, I've played Sandy's system a fair bit over the past few years so coming back in is natural to me," Talbot said.

"We have a culture where anytime we come together, it doesn't take long for us to mesh together."

More than 3000 fans rolled into the AIS Arena. Picture: Jamila Toderas

More than 3000 fans rolled into the AIS Arena. Picture: Jamila Toderas

AT A GLANCE

FIBA exhibition: OPALS 98 (Ezi Magbegor 20, Bec Allen 15) bt CHINA 63 (Shao Ting 9, Guo Zixuan 8) at AIS Arena.

This story Opals set sights on a gold medal first appeared on The Canberra Times.