China's Han Xu competes during a group B match between China and Britain at the women's Olympic qualifying basketball tournament in Belgrade, Serbia, on Feb 6, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)
BELGRADE - China defeated Britain 86-76 in an exciting Group B opener of the Women's Olympic Basketball Qualifying Tournament here on Thursday.
In the beginning of the match at the Aleksandar Nikolic hall, in front of hundreds of Chinese fans including star Yao Ming and the Chinese ambassador to Serbia Chen Bo, China gained the lead thanks to fast points from Li Meng, whose precise shooting kept their opponents at a 4-point distance.
However Britain made a turnaround with two consecutive three-pointers from Chantelle Handy and soon built a 5-point lead of their own to seal the first period.
In the second quarter, the precise shooting of Han Xu and three-pointers of Wang Siyu and Li Yuan helped China to keep up the pace with Britain, and reduce their gap to 3 points at halftime (43-46).
China made a scoring series at the opening of the second half, and recovered the lead thanks to field goals of Shao Ting and three-pointers of Li Yuan and Wang Siyu.
Starting the final quarter with 6-point advantage, China expanded it further with a three-pointer of Huang Sijing for 73-64, making it impossible for the opponents to catch up.
Li Meng, Han Xu and Shao Ting scored 16 points each for the Chinese team, while on the other side, Temi Fagbenle scored 26 points and Johannah Leedham added 19 points.
Captain Shao Ting told Xinhua after the match that the team China played on the level it was trained for, and attacked according to coaches plans.
"I think that the victory increased our confidence for the next two games," she said.
Chinese player Han Xu confirmed to journalists at the press conference that her team had one month of very busy preparation and that the victory came as a result of their hard work.
Coach Xu Limin said that his team did not play well in the beginning, but in the second half started to "execute what they prepared."
"In the transition we did a really good job and I think that our team was better than in 2019. We have more players and they are in a better shape than players of other teams, and this is fundamental for our team to win," Xu said.
Talking about China's next rivals of Spain and South Korea in the remaining two games, he said that "European basketball or Asian basketball, it is the same for us because we rely on ourselves. If we manage to be ourselves, we can beat any team."
The tournament was moved from China to Serbia due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.
For the Tokyo Olympic Games, 16 women's teams have been divided into four groups with the top three qualifying from each group after a round-robin competition.