All we learned from FIBA 3x3 Universality Olympic Qualifying Tournament 2 2024

7 May 2024

UTSUNOMIYA (Japan) - An unforgettable FIBA 3x3 Universality Olympic Qualifying Tournament 2 saw the Netherlands (men) and Australia (women) book their tickets to Paris after an intense three days of competition from May 3-5.

Here's what we learned.

Netherlands are Olympic bound yet again

Having had a taste in Tokyo, the Netherlands are Olympic bound again after an unbeaten run which included two victories over No.1 seed Lithuania, including the one that mattered the most in the final. 

The Dutch Masters were ultra motivated after falling agonizingly short in the UOQT 1 in Hong Kong last month. They were on a mission and relied on the chemistry they've built over the years. 

Of course, front and centre of their success was superstar Worthy de Jong who again exploded to the rim to easily top the scoring charts with 42 points in an MVP performance. 

But it wasn't a one-man show with sniper Arvin Slagter coming up huge with a trio of big twos in the final, while big fella Jan Driessen played the game of his life to limit towering Lithuanian star Aurelijus Pukelis. 

And no one was more pumped up than 3x3 Dutch pioneer Dimeo van der Horst, who played with energy and along with Slagter will be playing in his second Olympics.

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Australia show nerves of steel in their one opportunity 

Australia - affectionately known as 'Gangurrus' - may have been channelling Eminem when they arrived in Utsunomiya. Having not played in UOQT 1 and also not part of the draw in next month's final OQT in Debrecen, Asia Cup champs Australia had one opportunity.  

The pressure intensified after Australia lost their opener against Europe Cup champs Netherlands in OT on Day One before regrouping and sealing their spot in the knockouts with victory over No.1 seed Canada. 

After overcoming Brazil, Australia set up a rematch with Canada in the final and as expected it was a thriller as they traded blows. Australia gave up plenty of size to the imposing Plouffe sisters, but they made up for it with hustle, determination and heart. 

Asia Cup MVP Alex Wilson exemplified Australia's spirit with brilliant defending and doing all the little things. She hit two clutch free throws to effectively seal Australia's victory and also capped off her mighty performance with an emphatic block.

Wilson was part of a mighty Australian defensive unit alongside powerful Marena Whittle and MVP Anneli Maley, whose athleticism and versatility made her something of a Swiss army knife for her team. 

Having showcased nerves of steel, World Cup bronze medalist Australia look a legit threat for a medal in Paris. 

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Lithuania will need to rebound quickly 

The lethal Lithuanians entered as the No.1 seed and lived up to top billing - except when they played the Netherlands, who they just couldn't crack. 

Lithuania had comfortable victories in their three other games, including against France in the semis, on the back of a potent three-headed monster of  Evaldas Dziaugys, Aurelijus Pukelis and Sarūnas Vingelis who all finished in the top five of scoring. 

Lithuania came up short when it ultimately mattered most, but not all is lost because they will be in Debrecen.

And they will be extra determined knowing it's their last chance to get their proud country into the Olympics, where Lithuania has had plenty of success in hoops over the years. 

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Canada will have nightmares over the final

Much like Lithuania, Canada looked irresistible except against Australia who they lost twice to. Canada played spectacularly against European powers the Netherlands and Germany in the semis, but things unravelled against Australia in the final. 

Canada were unable to execute at their usual high level and made several costly turnovers at crucial moments down the stretch. Even though they played sloppily, it is to their enormous credit that Canada almost stole the game at the end. 

Canada's Olympic dream is not over and they will be flying to Debrecen with everything on the line.

They should be encouraged by the performance of  Paige Crozon, who more than provided support for the Plouffe sisters with a show-stopping 33 points to finish as the tournament's leading scorer. 

While Katie Bosch always provided her team with good vibes. 

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Utsunomiya, thank you!

What a couple of weeks we've had with back-to-back unreal events in Utsunomiya, a historical treasure of Japan. It started with an amazing Utsunomiya Opener and went up a level with the stakes raised for the UOQT 2. 

The Utsunomiya fans have cemented their reputation as one of 3x3's most passionate supporters as the atmosphere was completely lit for the entire three days. 

This event is another chapter in Utsunomiya 3x3 lore and we just can't wait to be back!

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