SAITAMA, Japan (AP) — Li Yueru hit two free throws with 0.6 seconds left, and China advanced to the Olympic quarterfinals by holding off a furious rally by Australia 76-74 on Friday night.
China led 61-50 with 7:09 left on a layup by Wang Siyu. Then the Opals stormed back, and Jenna O’Hea knocked down back-to-back 3s tying it at 75 with 2.1 seconds remaining.
Cayla George fouled Li under the basket, and Li made both free throws to send the Chinese players running onto the court to celebrate.
With Yao Ming, president of the Chinese Basketball Association, watching from the bench behind the coaches, China (2-0) has a berth secured in the knockout round after opening Group C play routing Puerto Rico.
Wang led China with 20 points. Li Yueru finished with 12, Li Meng added 11, and Yang Liwei had 10.
Australia, second only to the U.S. in FIBA’s world rankings with five WNBA players on the roster, now is 0-2 with only one game remaining in pool play. The Opals, playing without WNBA star Liz Cambage, were routed by Olympic newcomer Belgium in its opener.
Stephanie Talbot, who plays with the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, was back in the starting lineup for Australia after missing the Olympic opener with an injured foot. Early in the third quarter, she was walking along the end line and didn’t play after halftime.
A collision in the first quarter sent Katie Ebzery to the locker room for stitches on her left eyelid, while Wang had her right forehead bandaged on the sideline.
Ezi Magbegor led Australia with 15 points. O’Hea finished with 11, and George had 10.
Australia plays Puerto Rico and China faces Belgium on Monday to wrap pool play.
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