Breanna Stewart yesterday drilled 17 points as clinical reigning champions the US crushed Canada 83-43 in record-breaking fashion to set up a FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup final against first-timers China.
The US opened with 15 unanswered points and never relented, extending their World Cup winning streak to 29 games with their reward a clash with a powerful China who upset Australia 61-59 in a pulsating last-gasp triumph.
China made their maiden final after Wang Siyu converted two free throws with just 3.4 seconds on the clock in front of more than 11,000 raucous fans at the Sydney SuperDome.
Ever-dangerous Las Vegas Aces star A’ja Wilson added 15 points and 12 rebounds for the US as they zero in on a fourth straight title and 11th overall.
It was the biggest winning margin in a World Cup semi-final, with Canada’s tally the lowest in a last-four clash.
“I was really pleased with our team’s attention to detail on the scouting report as Canada has had a terrific tournament,” US coach Cheryl Reeve said. “Canada’s a very good defensive team so that was a quality win for us. Our goal is to win a gold medal and we are in a position to do that.”
The US were always overwhelming favorites in their 10th consecutive World Cup semi-final, having never failed to reach the last four since the knockout stage was introduced in 1986.
In contrast, world No. 4 Canada had got this far just once before, in 1986, when they also crashed to the US.
“I’m really proud with the way the team has grown from start to finish,” said Stewart, who is in her third World Cup final. “Our work is not done. We have one more game, the biggest of them all, and we’ll be ready.”
The US have killed it inside all tournament, sinking 55 points a game in the paint ahead of the semi-final, while punishing errors.
It was a similar scenario against Canada, who have taken big strides under coach Victor Lapena, but struggled against the speed of their opponents.
“Congratulations USA, they played amazing from the beginning. When you play against USA in a semi-final, it’s clear you must be perfect or they are going to break the game in 10 or 15 minutes,” Lapena said.
Australia and China both went into their semi-final with identical 5-1 tournament records, with the hosts losing to France on the opening night and China defeated by the US.
China suffered a huge blow ahead of the match when their leading points scorer and top player Li Meng was ruled out sick, and Australia edged ahead 17-13 in the fast-tempo first quarter.
However, China came back strong in the second frame, led by towering center Han Xu who hit a game-high 19 points, winning it by 10 points to go 36-30 in front as Australia’s shooting percentage dropped.
In an increasingly frantic match, the hosts closed the gap to 47-44 heading into the home stretch.
It looked destined for overtime before Sami Whitcomb gave away a foul and Wang stepped up to cooly covert the free throws.
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