Australia center Liz Cambage reacts after making a basket and receiving a foul during the second half against Belarus on Saturday. Australia won 74-66. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
RIO DE JANEIRO -- The Australia women’s basketball team hasn’t looked like itself lately, and the Opals are nearly out of time to get things figured out.
For the second straight game, Australia fell behind by double digits in the second half before escaping. The Aussies knocked off Belarus 74-66 on Saturday after rallying to beat Japan 92-86 on Thursday.
“You don’t want to be doing that too often,” Australia coach Brendan Joyce said. “Most teams at this level are going to be behind. Some teams can’t cope with it when they get behind. On the positive, we’ve shown that we can cope with it.”
While the world’s No. 2 team finished undefeated in its pool, the team's focus could be questioned heading into the quarterfinals after the close calls against what appeared to be lesser teams. Belarus is ranked 10th, while Japan is 16th.
Still, the Opals found a way and built momentum heading into a likely matchup with Serbia.
“You don’t want to go into the quarterfinals with a loss,” Joyce said. “Even though you can say you rotated people, or you can have all those excuses -- we’re five and zip.”
Center Liz Cambage is a key reason Australia has survived the challenges. She scored 37 points against Japan and 17 against Belarus.
Joyce said going forward, it will be more about what Australia does than its opponents.
“When we play defensively and rebound hard, we’ll beat anybody in the world,” he said.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter @CliffBruntAP.