PUERTO MONTT (2011 FIBA World Championship for Women) - Tayla Roberts erupted for 41 points and 17 rebounds to lead Australia past Japan
92-83 and into the Semi-Finals of the 2011 FIBA World Championship for Women on Friday in Puerto Montt, Chile.
In a contest featuring two teams with drastically different styles - at polar opposites even - the tactic of force-feeding the ball down low to the imposing Roberts paid the most dividends.
The result saw the Australians reach the last four of this tournament for the first time since 2001.
Their reward is a showdown with Spain, who defeated Canada 69-55 in the day's first Quarter-Final.
The 1.91m Roberts had 16 points in a pivotal third quarter that saw the Aussies erase a six-point deficit and go ahead for good.
Japan were up 41-40 at the break and, after Shiori Takada buried two three-pointers, they had their biggest lead of the night at 54-48.
Cheryl Chambers' girls made a more concerted effort of attacking the basket and it worked to great effect.
Roberts scored on either side of a Rebecca Cole three-point play and Nadeen Payne provided a huge boost off the bench making some tough runners for a 69-62 advantage.
Rui Machida knocked down a long bomb that got the Japanese within 72-67 heading into the final frame.
Australia stuck to their winning formula of going to Roberts and Payne and it resulted in their biggest lead of the game, 80-67, as the former once again overpowered her way inside.
Eiki Umezaki's girls lost their shooting touch from long range for most of the third quarter and early fourth but recovered it late in the game, as Takada buried one that cut the deficit to 82-75 with 4:20 to play.
Earlier in the tournament, that would have been enough time for Japan to pull off an incredible comeback, but there was none on this occasion as Grettel Tippett sealed the game from the free-throw line.
The first half was closely contested as the two teams went to their strengths right from the start.
Japan hit three three-pointers for a 12-11 lead, but Australia countered by going down in the post, where their considerable height advantage gifted them easy baskets.
Roberts accounted for 11 of her team's 21 points for a six-point lead at the end of the opening period.
They stretched that advantage to 24-17 when Payne knocked down the Aussies' only three-pointer of the game.
Japan - as has been their tendency for much of the tournament - rallied back and made a game of it.
Machida hit a pair of three-pointers before Takada drove baseline for a beautiful reverse lay-up that edged Japan in front 27-26.
With the momentum firmly in their corner, the Japanese pulled away and went up 37-32 on a pair of free-throws by Chikae Uchino.
The Australians reverted to their bread and butter of feeding Tippett and Roberts down low to get the lead back, 40-39, in the final minute of the first half.
However, that was shortlived as Machida's sweeping left-handed hook in the lane got a friendly roll at the buzzer for a 41-40 edge.
Cheryl Chambers (Australia head coach): "They’re tough because they’re so accurate from the three point line, and it really does challenge you. I thought first half we weren’t great at (executing) the scout, but in the second half we did a much better job."
"We’ve struggled a little bit execution wise so it was nice to see it return tonight. Tayla had a truckload but that was due to everyone else doing their job so she could operate."
"We structure our things around her because she is such a strong player, but I think we have still got some other weapons and tonight it was Tay."
"I though (Rebecca) Coley was fantastic tonight the way she got to the rack."