Australia's Penny Taylor has been on fire.
Australia's Penny Taylor has been on fire. Jessica Hill

Opals on course for another US showdown

THE Australian Opals will be looking to sweep their group games for the fourth time in the past five Olympics with wins in their final two pre-medal rounds against Japan (6.45am, Friday) and Belarus (1.15am, Sunday).

If they repeat their unbeaten efforts from Sydney 2000 (seven wins), Athens in 2004 (seven wins) and Beijing 2008 (seven wins), the Opals will be on their way to a gold-medal showdown with the all-conquering USA for the fourth time in the last 16 years.

After sweeping past France 89-71 for their third straight Rio win, the Opals can begin to fine-tune things against Japan and Belarus for the medal games with neither country in the top 10 of the FIBA world rankings.

It's an ideal position for coach Brendan Joyce to be in having seen off the more dangerous rivals early giving the Opals a smooth path to the big dance.

Captain Penny Taylor is providing the inspiration and scoring for her teammates in her farewell Olympics, rocking Rio's Youth Arena with a stunning 31 points against France in one of her most dominating performances in the green and gold.

The Phoenix Mercury star did not miss a shot in a flawless first half with 17 points..

But it wasn't just her shooting - she had nine assists, five rebounds and three steals, making it one of the best performances by an Australian women's basketballer.

It's on the back of Taylor's offensive game that players like Liz Cambage and others rise.

The reward for five wins will be huge for Australia - sidestepping their Olympic nemesis USA until the gold-medal game.



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