After going undefeated and securing a spot in the quarterfinals, Canada suffered their first loss at the hands of host nation Australia in a tough back-and-forth battle that the Opals took 75-72.
Canada shot 50 per cent from beyond the arc but managed only 38 per cent of their shots from the floor in total and despite a valiant third quarter effort could not hold off a second wind from Australia in the fourth quarter.
Now one of three teams sitting at 3-1 in Group B, Canada will close out their group play against Mali, who are last in the group with an 0-4 record. Canada has secured a knockout round spot but looks to avoid having to play the USA, the only undefeated team in the competition.
Here are some takeaways from Canada’s first loss in a battle against Australia at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup.
Nirra Fields still disrupts on both sides of the ball
Canada’s loss wasn’t for lack of trying, and Fields showed exactly that as she tipped in a team-leading 17 points including shooting 5-of-11 from midrange and adding two triples, six rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block.
With five of her points coming in the fourth quarter, Fields showed how versatile she is on the offensive side of the ball whether she takes advantage of open lanes for a driving lay-up or puts her defender on skates for a perfect mid-range shot that seems to be the guard’s specialty.
Fields also has the quickness to be a force on defence, forcing turnovers from whoever she is guarding, crashing the defensive boards or grabbing a steal to help Canada get back in transition to score – Canada managed 17 points from turnovers in the loss.
Averaging 13.8 points per game the 28-year-old has proven to be a key part of Canada’s offence, never scoring less than nine points in a game (scoring her nine against Japan all in the first half) and shooting 42.6 per cent from the field in the competition.
While most of Canada picked up their aggression on defence, Fields continued to carry much of the offensive load even in the loss, and while Mali may be a game where Fields gets a bit of a break from the action, she will be heavily relied on it when it comes to the quarterfinals.
“I thought we played hard,” Fields said. “We had them in the beginning with our defence and they just played really great team defence towards the end and we made a couple of mistakes that they really just punished us for but overall it was a really good game. We really fought hard.”
Australia’s defence too much for Canada
If it wasn’t enough that the Opals went on a 19-0 run to end the second quarter to take a five-point lead heading into the second half, they managed to stifle Canada once again in the fourth quarter with their smothering defence.
Not only did Ezi Magbegor score 16 points for Australia in the win, but four of her game-high five blocked shots came over the final five minutes as Australia held Canada to just nine points over that span.
Australia went on a 7-0 run with just under five minutes to play to take the lead after starting the quarter down six, and forcing Canada to miss layups and shot in the final two minutes of play helped them secure a six points lead in the final minute.
Fields hit a last-second three-pointer to bring Canada within three, but Australia’s pressure defensively blocking shots and stealing the ball frustrated Canada while the Opals kept their composure on the defensive boards.
Australia also did all of this without a key player in Bec Allen, who was injured in the fourth quarter after being an instrumental part of Australia’s win over Serbia with 16 points.
Canada’s depth showing more each game
Even with the win out of reach in the final minutes of the game, Canada continued to fight hard and show their growth as a team in all areas of the floor that they will continue to develop into the next round of the competition.
Kayla Alexander once again dominated on the boards as she grabbed 11 rebounds for Canada, and while her four points may not have been flashy, she was an integral part to Canada staying in the game.
Kia Nurse drained a three-pointer to put Canada back up in the final quarter 63-60, and her 11 points included 60 per cent shooting from long going 3-of-5 as Canada went 11-of-22 from the three-point line.
Bridget Carleton also had a stellar game in terms of offence with 16 points including 12 of those points coming from a dominant third quarter where Canada outscored Australia 24-13. Carleton also hit three triples in the game going 3-of-6 from long.
Laeticia Amihere’s defence in the final quarter showcased what the young forward is capable of as she tallied three blocks and two steals in the match to add to her seven points for Canada, being a force against a physical Australian team that loves to play in the paint.
“We dominated the game in two periods and Australia dominated the game in two periods. Finally, we lost by three points,” said Canada head coach Victor Lapeña.
“We were very close and this is very important for our future because today we got experience in this kind of atmosphere.”