In coach Kennedy Kereama’s eyes, New Zealand did the job they needed to on the Australian women’s basketball team: frustrate the hell out of them.
The Tall Ferns lost the first of two qualifying games for the 2016 Rio Olympics by 20 points in front of a buzzing Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne on Saturday.
Kereama says the margin, while not ideal, is an achievable target to beat when they meet again in Tauranga, New Zealand, on Monday night.
“It’s going to be a monumental task, but it’s realistic,” he said.
“We’ll play for the win first.
“The margin, obviously that’s important too. We’re going to have to shoot the ball a lot better than we did at 22 per cent.
“But at the same time, if we’re keeping Australia to 29 per cent, I’m pretty certain that Chocco (Opals coach Brendan Joyce) wouldn’t be happy with that.
“Players at times looked frustrated. To me, we’re doing our job.”
The Tall Ferns hit just 14 from 65 shots from the field, and only 1-9 three-pointers.
Kereama didn’t believe it had anything to do with the 13,000-plus crowd – “you could hardly hear them at times” – but moreso his side’s confidence.
“We believe the players can shoot the ball and get on the rim, it’s just a matter of the players getting their job done,” he said.
Joyce felt the Opals also had a way to go offensively, even though their execution was “pretty good”.
“The girls have just got to relax and knock down their shots,” he said.
The coach, though, said there was going to be no talk of the 20-point difference that they need to protect in game two to earn automatic qualification for next year’s Olympics.
“They know the buffer,” he said.
“We’ll be talking about winning the next quarter, the quarter after and winning the game.
“That’s our goal.”
Three-time Olympian Laura Hodges said while solid defence was crucial, speed and easy baskets are just as crucial to an Opals victory.
“You need to get stops, but we need to keep running the ball,” she said.
“An easy lay-up is better than running the ball for two to four seconds.
“We’re definitely not going to be just holding onto a lead.”