When faced with their first must-win game of the tournament, Canada answered with a 74-53 win over the Republic of Korea to get their first taste of victory at Tokyo Olympics.

In what could have been a tournament defining game, it was Canada’s defence that was the difference-maker. The Koreans put up a tough battle in the first half anchored by the offensive trio of Ji-Su Park with 15 points, Leeseul Kang and Danbi Kim both scoring 11 points. The entire Korean team shot over 50 per cent from inside the arch in the first quarter but when Canada locked in on the paint, Korea had no answers.

After the half, Canada took hold of the game to grow the lead to 13 points, holding Korea scoreless for the first five minutes of the second half and their relentless pressure in the paint found Hyeyoon Bae and Kim in foul trouble midway through the third quarter. 

Bridget Carleton started the game with a block and had arguably the best defensive showing of her career, disrupting every player she drew defensively and wreaking havoc on the perimeter. Carleton also shined on the offensive end with 18 points and four assists to go with seven rebounds.

Natalie Achonwa answered any questions about her health with her bounce-back performance after being held scoreless in the loss to Serbia. For the first time all summer, Canada’s bigs found their shots within the flow of the new offence. Achonwa scored 14 points, finding shots off rebounds, on the break and attacking Ji-Su Park. Kayla Alexander also chipped in 10 points and four rebounds.

Canada made full use of their size advantage against the Koreans grabbing a staggering 22 offensive rebounds to Korea’s nine and outrebounded them 54 to 32. The offence was a balanced attack with almost everyone who stepped on the court getting in on the action. Kia Nurse had nine points, and Shay Colley returned after a right shoulder injury saw her leave the game against Serbia and continued to be productive with nine points and seven rebounds.

The twenty-point win is second only to China’s 42-point drumming of Puerto Rico in Group C and will be a significant one going forward for Canada with Spain on the horizon. Almost every tie-break scenario Canada could find themselves in will come down to point differential, and with Spain beating Korea by just four points it puts Canada in a comfortable position in the event of a tie for second place in the group. It also puts Canada in a good position should they make it to the quarter-finals where point differential will help determine seeding.

From one must win to another, Canada will need to continue their offensive and defensive improvement in the next game against Spain who has struggled this summer to find consistent production from their offence but have historically been a powerhouse. Spain’s problems haven’t yet extended to Astou Ndour who had 28 points and 10 rebounds in their win over Korea.


Photo courtesy Canada Basketball

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