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China thrash Lebanon in Women's Basketball Asia Cup opener (updated)

SYDNEY, June 26 (Xinhua) -- An aggressive China started their quest to end a 12-year title drought at the FIBA Women's Basketball Asia Cup with a crushing 89-44 victory over Lebanon on Monday in Sydney.

After finishing runners-up at last year's World Cup, world No.2 China returned to Sydney Olympic Park in style as they eye winning Asia's continental championship for the first time since 2011.

Towering Han Xu was unstoppable inside the paint to finish with 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Li Meng, who starred at last year's World Cup, had 12 points, five assists, and four rebounds.

China were made to work early against underdogs Lebanon, who won the Asia Cup Division B in 2021 to claim a berth in this year's main draw.

Lebanon, ranked 44th in the world, were inspired by their best player Rebecca Akl, who scored nine early points in a tight first quarter.

But China put their foot down to start the second period with dynamic guard Li, who plays for Washington Mystics in the WNBA, driving relentlessly to the basket.

China quickly extended their lead to double figures before 12 straight points after half-time blew the game open.

"We fought really well in the first half. But against a big team like China, you've got to keep your focus for 40 minutes. You've got to stay physically with them for 40 minutes, so hard work for us," said Lebanon head coach Georges El Dabbak Geagea at the post-game media conference.

"But anyway, I am proud of my players. In the first half, they really showed character and they played mature basketball, so I'm proud of them. From now on, we watch the tape and we correct our mistakes and we move on," he added.

China head coach Zheng Wei told reporters, "Usually, the first game is not easy, especially our game today. When we started the game, we didn't do really well in defense and our field-goal percentage was not high in the beginning and some players didn't find their rhythm on the court."

"As we spent more time on the court, we gave more pressure on their defense. We also found more offensive opportunities. And the players all found their rhythm, played with their strengths and showed their all abilities," she noted.

As for the team's goal, Zheng pointed out that the team will first make sure of the qualification for the Paris 2024 Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournaments and then strive for the best results at the Asia Cup after going through the running-in process at the group phase.

It was an impressive performance for China, who tuned up for what should be a tougher Group A test on Tuesday against New Zealand buoyed by an upset 66-64 victory over 12-time Asia Cup champions South Korea.