August 18, 2013 at 7:30 AM
Good weekend for Australian national team
Can you be the WNBA’s Most Improved if you’ve really just returned to actually honor your contract? Tulsa All-Star Liz Cambage, a 6-foot-8 center, is making a case for what to do with her improved play as the WNBA’s final stretch begins.
The Australian scored 27 points on 8-for-12 shooting from the field as the last-placed Tulsa defeated the WNBA-leading Minnesota 83-77 on Friday. It’s the relocated-Shock’s first win against the 2011 WNBA champion Lynx in 15 games.
Remember when Cambage in 2012 flip-flopped on playing in Tulsa, ultimately missing the season after averaging 11.5 points and 4.7 rebounds in 33 games as a WNBA rookie? Well, as Storm C Lauren Jackson said in terms of her game, Cambage is finding the competitive benefits of playing in the toughest league in the world. She’s averaging 16.7 points and 7.7 rebounds for Tulsa (8-17), which sits 3.5 games back of Seattle (11-13) for the fourth and final spot in the Western Conference playoff race. It would be the Shock’s first postseason appearance since relocating from Detroit in 2009.
The No. 1 overall draft pick in 2011, Cambage’s game arrives at the right time. Down under on Sunday, her Opals national team co-captain, Jackson, scored the first seven points of an eventual 84-66 win against New Zealand in the FIBA Oceania Championship. Jackson, who underwent hamstring surgery in January, finished with a team-high 21 points to seal a 2-0 series win.
Former Storm G Belinda Snell finished with 17 points and four assists for the Opals.
The Aussies, ranked second to USA Basketball in the world, advance to play in the 2014 FIBA World Championship in Turkey to vie for a spot for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. Jackson, 32, is a four-time Olympian, leading the Opals to a bronze medal in the 2012 London Games.
“To be honest, I couldn’t imagine a better way to finish the tournament than playing here – and it’s packed out,” Jackson told the Brisbane Times of the game in her hometown Canberra. The Australian Institute of Sport Arena has a 5,200-seat capacity. It’s the same facility where Jackson began her professional career at age 16.
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