China eyeing a medal for first time in 28 years

Sep 25, 2022, 7:21 PM | Updated: Sep 26, 2022, 7:25 am
United States' Kelsey Plum, right, and China's Li Meng compete for the ballduring their game at the...

United States' Kelsey Plum, right, and China's Li Meng compete for the ballduring their game at the women's Basketball World Cup in Sydney, Australia, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

(AP Photo/Mark Baker)

              China's Li Meng poses for a selfie with fans following during her game at the women's Basketball World Cup against Puerto Rico in Sydney, Australia, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
            
              China's Li Meng poses for a selfie for fans following during their game at the women's Basketball World Cup against Puerto Rico in Sydney, Australia, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
            
              China's Han Xu poses for a selfie with fans following during their game at the women's Basketball World Cup against Puerto Rico in Sydney, Australia, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
            
              China's Han Xu signs her autograph for fans following during their game at the women's Basketball World Cup against Puerto Rico in Sydney, Australia, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
            
              United States' Kelsey Plum, right, and China's Li Meng compete for the ballduring their game at the women's Basketball World Cup in Sydney, Australia, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
            
              China's Han Xu gathers the ball during their game at the women's Basketball World Cup against the United States in Sydney, Australia, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
            
              United States' Kelsey Plum runs past China's Han Xu during their game at the women's Basketball World Cup in Sydney, Australia, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

SYDNEY (AP) — It’s been 28 years since China last won a medal at the World Cup, finishing second in the 1994 games.

With a dominant inside presence, led by Han Xu and Li Yueru, plus talented shooters and quick guards, the Chinese team has gotten off to a strong start in Australia and could find its way onto the podium.

China is 3-1 in pool play, with the lone loss coming against the U.S. In the three victories, the Chinese team won by an average of 48 points and scored close to 100 points a game. Even a 14-point loss to the U.S. showed that China has improved from finishing sixth in the 2018 World Cup and fifth in last year’s Olympics.

“Compared with the U.S. team, the confrontation and intensity of the Chinese team in the first two games of the group stage are not at the same level. I hope the players can benefit from it,” China coach Zheng Wei said through a translator. “Throughout the game, our team only played poorly in the first few minutes and the last three minutes of the second quarter, and the rest of the time was good. I am proud of the performance of the players!”

U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve has seen a lot of improvement in China and joked that she doesn’t want them to get too much better.

“We have all the respect in the world for China, we’ve seen them grow … this is a great time for the women’s national team,” Reeve said. “It’s a great time. It’s a very, very good team.”

China plays a more up-tempo unselfish style under Zheng, who took over in May. In Monday’s win over Puerto Rico, the team had 39 assists on its 41 baskets.

Chinese fans have taken notice. Besides the host team, China has drawn the biggest crowds at the World Cup. The players have been appreciative of the support, signing autographs and posing for pictures after games.

“I like that our fans come to watch,” said Han, who is averaging 12.3 points and 8.8 rebounds in the tournament.

She came into the tournament after having a strong season in the WNBA for the Liberty and has a huge fan following.

A win over Belgium on Tuesday would secure the No. 2 seed in the pool and more importantly have the team avoiding a rematch with the U.S. until the gold medal game.

___

More AP women’s basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander throws to a Minnesota Twins batter during t...
Associated Press

AP source: Verlander agrees to 2-year contract with Mets

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Justin Verlander agreed to an $86.7 million, two-year contract with the New York Mets on Monday, reuniting the AL Cy Young Award winner with Max Scherzer and giving the Mets a high-profile replacement for Jacob deGrom. The contract is worth $43,333,333 per season and includes a vesting player option for 2025 […]
2 days ago
FILE - Los Angeles Dodgers' Trea Turner (6) bats during a baseball game against the New York Mets T...
Associated Press

AP source: Trea Turner, Phillies reach $300M, 11-year deal

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Philadelphia Phillies landed Trea Turner on Monday, agreeing to a $300 million, 11-year contract with the dynamic shortstop. The deal includes a no-trade clause, according to a person familiar with the negotiations who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because there was no immediate announcement. Turner joins […]
2 days ago
Morocco's Youssef En-Nesyri , left, celebrates beside Morocco's Sofiane Boufal, right, after he sco...
Associated Press

World Cup Viewer’s Guide: 2 quarterfinals places left

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The final day of the round of 16 concludes Tuesday at the World Cup when Morocco faces Spain, and Portugal goes head-to-head with Switzerland for the final two spots in the quarterfinals. The results will be decided on the field, but for Spain and Morocco, the game will be played against […]
2 days ago
Brazil supporters cheer on the stands above a banner with pictures of soccer legend Pele, while wai...
Associated Press

Pelé to watch Brazil’s World Cup match from the hospital

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazilian soccer great Pelé will be cheering on his country’s national team on Monday in its World Cup game against South Korea from the hospital, where he is being treated for a respiratory infection aggravated by COVID-19. “In 1958, I walked the streets thinking about fulfilling the promise I made […]
2 days ago
This Sept. 16, 2022 photo shows the volleyball courts in the Wellness Center at the University of S...
Associated Press

Mississippi revises demands on Favre in welfare lawsuit

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi Department of Human Services on Monday changed its demands against retired NFL quarterback Brett Favre in a lawsuit that seeks repayment of misspent welfare money that was intended to help some of the poorest people in the U.S. The department dropped its demand of $1.1 million against Favre, acknowledging […]
2 days ago
Brazil's Neymar, left and Brazil's Richarlison, right, celebrate with other team players after Vini...
Associated Press

Neymar returns to Brazil’s lineup, scores at World Cup

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Neymar started against South Korea in the round of 16 of the World Cup on Monday and scored in the first half to move one goal shy of Pelé’s all-time scoring record with Brazil. Neymar converted a 13th-minute penalty kick to help Brazil build a 4-0 lead in the first half […]
2 days ago
China eyeing a medal for first time in 28 years