Liz Cambage

AP

Australia flag falls during FIBA World Cup medal ceremony

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As “The Star-Spangled Banner” reached the point where “our flag was still there,” it was apparent that Australia’s was not.

The FIBA World Cup silver medalist’s flag fell during the medal ceremony, minutes after a 73-56 loss to the U.S. in the final — dropping Australia to 0-18 against the U.S. in Olympic and world tournaments.

“The shots wouldn’t fall but the flag does,” Basketball Australia’s account tweeted.

Australia superstar Liz Cambage turned around and covered her mouth while teammates laughed on the court in Tenerife, the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands off the west coast of Africa.

MORE: New star emerges for USA Basketball at World Cup

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U.S. crushes Australia for FIBA World Cup three-peat, Olympic berth

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There were reasons to believe the dominant U.S. women’s basketball team would be challenged by Australia in the FIBA World Cup final.

The Americans’ slow starts in the last two games against Nigeria (trailed 17-9 after one quarter) and Belgium (behind 26-21 after the first). Australia’s play this tournament, winning its five games by an average of 26.8 points (5.8 greater than the U.S.’ margin).

Australian superstar Liz Cambage — a tournament-leading 27.2 points per game on 68 percent shooting for the WNBA scoring leader. The names missing from the U.S. roster — Maya MooreSylvia Fowles and Candace Parker, most notably.

Doubts faded in the first three minutes.

The Americans ran out 10-0. Australia missed its first eight shots in Tenerife, the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands off the west coast of Africa.

The U.S., despite shooting just 25 percent in the first half, never ceded the lead en route to a 73-56 win. It’s the first nation to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic tournament.

The U.S. three-peated as world champion for the first time. Semifinal upsets in 1994 and 2006 torpedoed previous attempts.

“It’s probably been the most competitive World Cup we’ve ever played in,” said Diana Taurasi, who played in her fourth worlds.

The Americans are undefeated at the Olympics and worlds since that 2006 semifinal loss to Russia — 46 straight victories. They’re now 18-0 against Australia, considered their longtime rival, at the Olympics and worlds. Cambage had a quiet seven points Sunday.

Brittney Griner (15 points) and Taurasi (13) were the top scorers, but Breanna Stewart deserves first mention of the Americans for the tournament. She led the team per game in points (16.3) and minutes (27) and was named MVP.

“Stewie at the start of this year, so we are talking like April, really decided what she wanted to do with her basketball career,” Seattle Storm teammate Sue Bird said, according to USA Basketball. “She wanted to be an MVP. She wanted to win a championship. She wanted to come here and put her mark on USA Basketball.

In 2014, Stewart was last on the team with 1.8 points per game at worlds, mostly there to gain experience as a rising UConn junior. She was also the youngest 2016 Olympian, playing the second-fewest minutes on the team. Now she’s the reigning WNBA MVP and Finals MVP.

“It’s not a bad way to cap things off,” Stewart said, according to USA Basketball, “and now it is time for a little vacation.”

Stewart took Moore’s place in the starting lineup and might not let it go. Moore, who started all 14 games between the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, skipped this World Cup after an exhausting year playing in Europe and then the WNBA.

“This kid played out of position this entire tournament,” Bird said of the 6-foot-4 Stewart. “She was playing the three. Trust me when I tell you, she’ll tell you, too, she ain’t a three.”

Bird, the second-oldest American in a global tournament in the Olympic women’s basketball era (since 1976; Jennifer Gillom, 38 in 2002), broke head coach Dawn Staley‘s record for career World Cup assists.

If Bird makes the 2020 Olympic team (likely given she started all five of her games in Tenerife), she will break Tamika Catchings‘ record as the oldest U.S. Olympic basketball player of either gender.

Both Bird and Taurasi repeated after the game regarding Tokyo 2020: If USA Basketball calls on them, they won’t say no.

“You never know if you’re going to be back,” Bird said, according to USA Basketball. “I really just want to cherish these moments.”

MORE: U.S. volleyball’s ‘Slugger’ goes from coaching to MVP

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Penny Taylor, Liz Cambage lead Australia women’s basketball roster

Liz Cambage
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GOLD COAST, Australia (AP) — Former WNBA center Liz Cambage has been included in a 12-strong Australian squad that is aiming to win a medal at a sixth consecutive Olympic women’s basketball tournament.

This time, the so-called Opals want gold in Rio de Janeiro.

Cambage, Laura Hodges and Rachel Jarry return from the squad which lost the semifinals to the United States at London 2012 and finished with the bronze. Penny Taylor and Erin Phillips return after missing the London Games.

”Gold is always the goal – but we know there is a long way to getting the chance,” said Taylor, who has two Olympic silver medals and, at 35, will be the oldest member of the squad.

Taylor plays for the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA and has regular exposure to the top Americans.

”They are the defending gold medalists and are the pinnacle of our sport,” she said. ”They’re always who we see as our biggest competitor and we just want to give ourselves another chance to get in a position to be able to face them.”

Australia coach Brendan Joyce left out three-time Olympic medalist Suzy Batkovic and picked seven first-time Olympians in his squad. Lauren Jackson, who won three Olympic silver medals and one bronze, retired earlier in the year because of knee injuries.

Marianna Tolo, Australia’s highest scorer at the 2014 World Championship, recently returned from a 10-month injury layoff for an eight-game trip to Europe to confirm her place in the Olympic squad.

The Australians travel to Dallas next week for warmup matches against Canada, France and the Olympic and world champion U.S. team.

The Opals open their Olympic campaign against Brazil on Aug. 6 and have group matches against Turkey, France, Japan and Belarus.

Squad: Liz Cambage, Marianna Tolo, Cayla George, Stephanie Talbot, Rachel Jarry, Nat Burton, Katie-Rae Ebzery, Tessa Lavey, Leilani Mitchell, Laura Hodges, Erin Phillips, Penny Taylor.

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