The veterans of Australia pounced on an early 11-0 run and never looked back in defeating the young Korean team, 87-54, at the FIBA World Championships Sunday in Istanbul, to improve to 2-0 in Group C.
The primary Korean team is participating in the Asian Games at Incheon, so a team with no major international experience was sent to Turkey, with starting 6-foot-5 center Park Jisu only 16 years old.
“We were quite prepared for this team and the style of game they played,” said Penny Taylor, who had 11 points for Australia. “We have a good mix of young talent and some World Championship and Olympic experience, so it helps to have that good balance of focus in the beginning of the games.”
Three-time Olympian Laura Hodges led the Opals with 14 points, Marianna Tolo and Belinda Snell each scored 13, Natalie Burton recorded 10 points and seven rebounds, and Erin Phillips passed a game-high seven assists.
Snell, who played for the Phoenix Mercury from 2005-07, is the only Australian to play in every Olympics and World Championships since 2004, and was 3-of-5 from downtown Sunday.
Forward Kim Youn Joo was 5-of-11 from three-point range and had the game-high with 17 points for Korea (0-2), Lee Seung Ah scored 11 with a match-high eight boards, and Hong Aran also scored 10.
Playing without the likes of Lauren Jackson, Australia has six players under age 25, as well.
“There are some young players, some I’ve only seen in the past week since I left Phoenix,” Taylor said. “I’m just getting to know them and how they play, some are so athletic and intelligent, it’s fun to see what they can do on the court.”
Korea, ranked No. 11 in the world, finished eighth in this event in 2010 and was second in both 1967 and 1979. With 14 appearances in the tournament, only the U.S. and Brazil have more (15 of 16).
Australia defeated Korea, 90-62, in group play at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The Americans would go on to eliminate the Koreans in the quarterfinals and the Australians in the gold medal game.
Australia next plays Belarus Tuesday, which it defeated in 2010, 83-59, although the Belarusians would advance to the semifinals. Korea will play Cuba Tuesday.
In Group B at Ankara, Sandrine Gruda scored 19 points with seven rebounds in France’s 89-45 win over Mozambique (0-2). Leia Dongue notched a double-double for the second-consecutive day with 18 points and 11 rebounds for Mozambique, and the French improved to 1-1.