WORLD number 2 ranked women’s basketball team Australia bowed out of the Rio Olympics after losing 73-71 to Serbia in a highly physical quarterfinal over night.
Turnovers and tentative play were the main factors of the Opals’ shock loss as they committed 29 turnovers to just nine from a brave Serbia side.
In a stunning 24-point display from Serbian shooting guard Ana Dabovic, Serbia eliminated heavy favourites Australia from medal contention for the first time in more than 20 years.
In a tight first quarter, both teams went basket for basket.
In-form centre Liz Cambage dominated early in the first, scoring 10 points with the majority from free throws while Sonja Petrovic shot eight points to tie the scores 20-20.
Serbia continued to commit fouls on Cambage and Marianna Tolo, which gave the Opals scoring opportunities to snatch a 27-25 lead early in the second.
Rachel Jarry showed her class with a trio of three pointers while Dabovic also scored heavily to keep Serbia alive.
Serbia trailed Australia 35-37 at half-time and had an injury scare to star player Petrovic, who hurt her shoulder towards the end of the quarter.
Serbia missed many shots but Australia failed to capitalise in the beginning of the third quarter and committed many turnovers themselves.
The Opals struggled with Serbia’s increased intensity and scoreboard pressure thanks to a brave Petrovic and Jelena Milovanovic but still brought a 52-51 lead into the final quarter.
Milovanovic continued to find her form when it mattered in the final quarter to steady the ship with important three-pointers as Australia committed more fouls under pressure.
Cambage kept Australia in the hunt late in the final quarter but undisciplined play and poor defence resulted in Dabovic scoring consecutive shots to secure a 73-71 win for her country.
Dabovic was the best player on the court but she was well supported by Milovanovic who scored 17 points and an injured Petrovic (13 points).
Cambage, who finished with another double-double (29 points and 11 rebounds) and Jarry (14 points) were Australia’s best in their devastating loss.
Serbia will compete against France or Spain in the semifinals later this week.