Opals fade in opening loss to Belgium | Ralph Lauren

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The Opals have let a seven-point lead slip, fading badly in a 85-70 loss in their Olympic women’s basketball opener to Belgium.

Australia looked in control as Ezi Magbegor (20 points, eight rebounds), Cayla George (12 points, 10 rebounds, four assists) and Katie Ebzery (11 points, nine rebounds, six assists) combined to shoot them clear either side of halftime.

But, in their Olympic debut, Belgium turned up the heat and the Opals weren’t able to match it.

WNBA forward Emma Meesseman (32 points, nine rebounds, five assists) dominated for Belgium, while Australia (14 turnovers to Belgium’s five) had themselves to blame for costly errors while in-bounding.

Those cheap points built pressure and the Opals’ offence suffered, Australia only scoring 29 in the second half and losing the final quarter 29-13.

The result comes after key player, WNBA All-Star centre Liz Cambage’s withdrawal from the campaign citing mental health concerns shortly before they flew to Japan.

They Opals beaten gold medal favourites the United States in a practice match immediately after her exit though, fuelling hope of a breakthrough Olympic title for the No.2 ranked side.

Instead it’s Belgium – fourth in the 2018 World Cup and match hardened by a tough Olympic build up – who made the early statement.

The Opals, who have Puerto Rico and China in their group, can still progress to the quarter-final stage with wins later in the tournament.

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