After splitting their first two group matches with a win and a loss, the Canadian women’s national team suffered a tough 76-66 defeat to frontrunning Spain on Saturday evening in Tokyo.
The loss puts Canada in a tough position at 1-2 in the group, in which they will have to rely on results from other teams to qualify as one of the best third-place finishers. For Spain, they finish the group at a perfect 3-0, putting them straight into the Quarterfinals with a likely favourable opponent.
Canada’s scoring was fairly balanced on Saturday night as no one took over the game offensively, but Kia Nurse led the team with 14 points on 4/10 shooting, to go along with 2 rebounds and 2 assists. Natalie Achonwa scored 10 points in 26 minutes of action, on top of grabbing 6 boards in the losing effort. Laeticia Amihere made a difference off of the bench for the Canadians, scoring 10 points in just 17 minutes with an efficient 5/10 from the floor. One of the biggest struggles for Canada in the game was defensive rebounding, who could only muster 22 boards compared to the 33 for Spain.
For Spain, it was the size up front that made the difference, as centre Astou Ndour-Fall dominated in her 36 minutes of action, finishing with a 20-point 11-rebound double-double on 9/11 shooting, along with 3 steals and 2 blocks. Guard Cristina Ouvina was also able to have her way with the Canadian defence, scoring 15 points and dishing 7 assists in the process. Spain was actually beaten 19-17 in terms of bench scoring, but the heavy minutes and impact of the starting 5 were too much to handle for Canada with 4 starters finishing with 8 points or more.
Much like in the first group game against Serbia, a slow start put Canada behind the 8-ball early, with their offence in particular struggling to get any sort of flow going. Spain outscored them 23-13 in the first frame, although the Canadians were able to get things back under control in the second quarter. Spain led 40-34 at the half, but it felt as if they deserved to be up by more considering the flow of the game. To start the third, Canada came out of the gates just as sloppy as they did in the first, with careless turnovers and empty possessions that allowed for Spain to extend the lead. Canada trailed 60-47 after the third, and knew it would take a miracle to come back in the fourth and assure qualification to the next round. Despite a valiant effort in the middle of the fourth, Spain put their foot back on the gas towards the end and ran away with a 10-point win in a game they thoroughly deserved from the first tip to the final whistle.
The loss is Canada’s second of group play, with the first being a tough 4-point defeat to Serbia earlier this week. Canada’s lone win was a blowout victory against South Korea, which helps them in terms of point differential, which is the main tiebreaker in the tournament.
As of Sunday morning, play in Group A has concluded, with Canada finishing 3rd. Group B and C are still yet to play their third matches, and those will be critical for a Canadian team that no longer controls its own destiny. Since 8 out of the 12 teams qualify for the quarters, two of the three third place teams will advance, meaning Canada would need help from other opponents in order to move through on point differential despite its losing record.
Unfortunately for Canada, it looks as if the third-place finisher in Group C (presumably Australia) will finish ahead of them unless Puerto Rico can pull off a miracle, meaning that their only real chance of qualification is to finish ahead of the third-place team in Group B. In order to do that, France will need to lose to the USA by 15 points or more on Sunday, which would put Canada ahead of France by point differential and move them into the quarterfinals.
For Spain, they will await the quarterfinal draw and prepare for whoever their opponent is on Tuesday night, while Canada will sit and wait until early Monday morning to see if they’ll join Spain in the knockout stages for an elimination game that would take place early Wednesday morning.
Nurse – 14 PTS 2 REB 2 AST
Achonwa – 11 PTS 6 REB 2 AST
Carleton – 9 PTS 6 REB 4 AST
Ndour-Fall – 20 PTS 11 REB 1 AST
Ouvina – 15 PTS 2 REB 7 AST
Gil – 8 PTS 7 REB 5 AST
CAN VS. SPAIN BOXSCORE
Photo courtesy Canada Basketball