USA, Australia hit three figures as Japan crash at women’s basketball World Cup

Holders the United States and hosts Australia both hit the century mark on Friday to signal they mean business at the women’s basketball World Cup, while Serbia upset Olympic silver medallists Japan.

The three-time defending champion Americans romped 106-42 against Puerto Rico to make it 2-0 in Group A as they target an 11th title, after easing past a strong Belgium on the opening day of the 10-day championships.

Australia, the beaten 2018 finalists, also brought up three figures in thrashing Mali 118-58 to bounce back from an opening day defeat to France.

USA shot 54 percent from the field with Shakira Austin (19), Kahleah Copper (18), Brionna Jones (13), Jewell Loyd (12), Breanna Stewart (11) and Alyssa Thomas (11) all in double figures.

“Defensively, again, led by Alyssa with six steals, I think we were just really hard to play against,” said coach Cheryl Reeve. “We also had a bench that was really, really good.”

It was their 24th consecutive win at the World Cup, stretching back to 2010.

Thomas said the score didn’t properly reflect what they had achieved.

“We were working on our team chemistry and we added a lot of new pieces,” she said. “Games like this are helpful.”

Puerto Rico won their first-ever World Cup game on Thursday when they crushed Bosnia and Herzegovina 82-58 in Sydney.

But they were no match for the mighty Americans, who blunted the dangerous Arella Guirantes.

Guirantes scored an incredible 26 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in that Thursday win, but was restricted to just seven points in her near-20-minute court time.

“Today we didn’t show up. We were playing the best team in the world, but I think we didn’t try,” said Puerto Rico’s disappointed coach Jerry Batista. “We must learn from this. We have to be more aggressive.”

Ominously, the Americans were again not at full strength.

The Las Vegas Aces’ Chelsea Gray, Kelsey Plum and A’ja Wilson arrived in Sydney jet-lagged early Friday after their team sealed the WNBA Finals last weekend, so they took no part.

Australia were also on fire against Mali, who have lost two-from-two in Group B, with Sara Blicavs leading the way with 14 points, eight rebounds and two assists.

– Physical –

Asian champions Japan poured in 16 three-pointers in their 89-56 thumping of Mali on Thursday, but managed just five from 22 against Serbia — and it cost them.

The Serbs raced to a 24-9 lead in the first quarter before Japan woke up, but the margin was too great and they slumped 69-64.

Jovana Nogic made 13 points and nine rebounds for Serbia, making amends for the team’s 67-60 loss to world number four Canada in their opener.

The top four teams from each of the two groups progress to the quarter-finals.

Belgium bounced back from their defeat to the USA to win 84-61 against South Korea — a team struggling without marquee star Park Ji-su.

Bosnia and Herzegovina also suffered a second defeat, overwhelmed by China 98-51 with Xu Han netting 18 points and Meng Li 17.

After stunning Australia on Thursday, France was unable to repeat the feat against Canada, crashing 59-45.

“Their physicality made the difference, they beat us on the ball… and we missed some easy shots,” said French coach Jean-Aime Toupane.

China, the United States and Canada are the only teams to win both games so far.

mp/dva