The Chemist Warehouse Australian Opals start their 2018 FIBA Women's World Cup with a 86-68 win over Nigeria.
After Bec Allen hit the opening jumper inside the first ten seconds, the Opals were never headed but Nigeria took it up to them in a physical encounter and harassed them for most of the game in a full-court press.
Once Australia broke through that defence, Liz Cambage was able to take over though and she finished with a dominant stat-line of 34 points, 12 rebounds, two assists, one steal and four blocks in an ominous warning for the rest of the competition.
The Opals hit the court without Jenna O'Hea (calf strain) but were able to hit their first six shots of the contest with Cambage knocking down two of them and then finding a wide-open Cayla George (four points, six assists) when she was double-teamed.
A 6-2 advantage in offensive rebounds kept Nigeria in the contest but the Opals moved in front by seven at quarter-time on the back of a spectacular play from Cambage.
The centre ran the floor for a lay-up off a defensive rebound before hustling back down the court to reject a Nigerian three-point attempt in the corner, a play that had the entire Opals bench on their feet.
Nigeria were dogged and desperate defensively but struggled to contain Cambage and then early in the second term, Tess Madgen (eight points) drained a dagger on the shot clock buzzer after the Nigerians had played 23 seconds of lock-down defence.
That sparked a 9-3 run with Katie Ebzery (four points, two steals) and Alanna Smith (five points) also hitting the scoreboard.
By half-time, the Aussies had eight players in the points already, led by Cambage with 20.
Australia had the edge in the paint, shooting 74% as a team but Nigeria had restricted them from hitting a three and they then got the second half started with a triple of their own.
However, Bec Allen (nine points, five rebounds, three assists) was able to respond from distance and then Sami Whitcomb (eight points, two assists) did what she does best with back-to-back three pointers to once again give the Opals some breathing space.
Nigeria were relentless in their attack, continuing to rack up the offensive rebounds as well as penetrate against the Aussie bigs but for all their hard work, they only trimmed the deficit by two in the third period.
Cambage then put the game to bed with the Opals' first five points of the final quarter, shooting 14-22 overall in just 26 minutes.
Australia finished with nine players on the scoreboard and nine players recorded at least one assist.
Steph Talbot led the way in that regard, collecting six points and six assists as the Opals collected 25 dimes for 33 field goals on their way to shooting 51% from the field.
The @ChemistWhouse Australian Opals defeat a tough Nigerian team in the perfect start to the 2018 @FIBA World Cup!— Basketball Australia (@BasketballAus) September 22, 2018
Cambage starred with 34pts, 12rebs and 4blks, Allen had 9pts and Madgen, Magbegor and Whitcomb each scored 8! #GoOpals #FIBAWWC #ChemistWarehouse pic.twitter.com/230mp8LuVe
Find the box score here.
The Opals now back up tomorrow night against Argentina with the chance to assert themselves on top of the Group B ladder.
If Australia finishes the group stage first, they will automatically advance to the Quarter-Finals but a second or third-placed finish will see them placed into a Quarter-Final qualification game while the team that finishes fourth in the group will be knocked out.
Prior to tonight's game, Jenna O'Hea was named captain with Cayla George, Liz Cambage and Katie Ebzery joining her in the leadership group.
The Chemist Warehouse Australian Opals Schedule for the FIBA Women’s World Cup (all times AEST):
September 22: Australia def. Nigeria (86-68)
September 23: Australia vs. Argentina at 8.00pm
September 25: Australia vs. Turkey at 8.30pm
September 26: Quarter-Final Qualifications
September 28: Quarter-Finals
September 29: Semi-Finals
September 30: Medal Games