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US reach women’s basketball World Cup quarterfinals, as Belgium survive scare

2. Women's World Cup
USA’s Chelsea Gray takes a penalty shot during the Women’s Basketball World Cup Group A game between China and the USA in Sydney on September 24, 2022. (Photo: AFP)

SYDNEY, Australia — Holders the US surged into the women’s basketball World Cup quarterfinals on Saturday with a comfortable 77–63 victory over China in Sydney, as Belgium survived a scare against Puerto Rico. اضافة اعلان

After crushing Belgium and Puerto Rico, the Americans faced a trickier Group A test against an emerging China, who were tipped to be the US’ biggest threat to an 11th world title.

But the three-time defending champions led throughout in front of a capacity 21,000 crowd.

A nervous Belgium, who made the semifinals in 2018, hung on with a tense 68–65 win over Puerto Rico to notch their second straight victory after losing to the US on day one. 

The mighty US set up their victory over China with a dominant first half to notch their 25th consecutive win at the World Cup — stretching back to 2010 — and became the first team to qualify for the final eight.

They led 44–25 at the long break before thwarting China’s late rally.

A’ja Wilson (20 points, eight rebounds) and Chelsea Gray (12 points, six rebounds) starred on their debuts in the 10-day tournament.

US coach Cheryl Reeve praised her team’s defense, which stymied a China side who had hit the century mark in their previous wins against South Korea and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Li Meng (21 points) and Wang Siyu (17 points) led a gritty China, who fell to a 2–1 record.

Boasting youthful talent and a high-octane style, China were widely tipped to test the US.

But the Americans had all the answers and were boosted by the returns of Wilson, Gray, and Kelsey Plum, who made their first appearances after arriving in Sydney jet-lagged early Friday following the Las Vegas Aces’ victory in the WNBA Finals.

Gray showed no signs of weariness with a three-pointer for the hot-shooting US, who raced out to an 11–0 lead within two minutes. 

Willed on by rowdy fans in the stands, China desperately tried to stay afloat but forward Alyssa Thomas dominated around the basket to stretch US’ advantage at half-time.

The Americans were uncharacteristically cold from the field in the third quarter and China capitalized to get within single digits.

But the US put the foot down with the first nine points of the final quarter and snuffed out China’s late challenge to maintain their unbeaten record.   

Belgium had a tougher task against improved Puerto Rico, who won their first ever World Cup game in their opener against Bosnia and Herzegovina.

They sniffed a major upset when star Arella Guirantes’ three-point play gave Puerto Rico a 62–61 lead, but Belgium rallied through Kyara Linskens, who was spectacular with 24 points and 13 rebounds.

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

In the other Group A game, Leeseul Kang was unstoppable with 37 points to power South Korea to a 99–66 thrashing of winless Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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