Breanna Stewart scored a game-high 17 points and added eight rebounds as the United States demolished Canada 83-43 in the semifinals of the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022.
The loss saw Canada move onto the bronze-medal game, while the United States will compete for its fourth straight World Cup gold.
The star Las Vegas Aces pick-and-roll combo of A’Ja Wilson and Chelsea Gray combined for 19 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists for the U.S. in the win.
Laeticia Amihere led all Canadian scorers with eight points.
The Americans jumped on Canada right from the opening tip, getting out to a 15-0 run to begin the game. The U.S. held the Canadians without a single point for nearly five full minutes before Amihere finally ended the drought with 5:09 left in the first quarter.
“I was really pleased with our team’s attention to detail in the scouting report,” Cheryl Reeve, Team USA’s head coach said after the game. “Canada’s had, I think, a terrific tournament and so I told our group that they’re a win against the hosts away from being the No. 1 seed on that side. So, I wanted them to understand what they just did and how hard they made it for Canada to score the ball – and Canada’s a very good defensive team.
“So, that was a quality win for us and, as we said, our goal is to win a gold medal and we’re in position to do that.”
Canada scored just seven points in total in the first quarter as it carried a 27-7 deficit that would never really shrink much.
Overall, the Canadians looked to be thoroughly overmatched by the United States’ superior length, strength, speed and athleticism. Canada only shot 21.9 per cent from the field while the U.S. finished the game having shot the ball a tidy 48.4 per cent from the field.
Here are a few takeaways from a rough Canadian defeat in the semifinals to a powerful U.S. squad.
Valuable learning experience for Canada
Despite the lopsided nature of the loss, there’s certainly positives for Canada to take from its game with the U.S.
For one, it’s abundantly clear what the top of the mountain looks like for this team as it looks to build towards the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The United States is an unfair team filled to the brim with not just WNBA talent, but WNBA stars – Kelsey Plum and Sabrina Ionescu comes off the bench for the U.S. Yet, this is the kind of obstacle that will need to be overcome if Canada is to achieve its gold-medal dreams.
Understanding what you’re up against is never a bad thing, even if it may seem demoralizing as you embark upon the journey.
For Canada head coach Victor Lapena, this game, and all the others Canada has played in so far, have been valuable building blocks for what’s to come.
“It’s very, very important to be in these games for us,” said Lapena. “Before coming here we didn’t talk, we didn’t expect to be in the semifinal, but on the other hand we didn’t think that we wouldn’t be able to do it. …
“I’m very happy with the group because all our games were difficult work for us. Serbia, France, Japan. Very difficult, but this is experience and experience and experience and they’re very different styles. So, for our team, looking to the future, looking towards Paris, looking after the Olympics, looking at the next six, eight years [playing in these games] is very, very important.”
U.S. runs down Canada’s throat
When Canada went down 15-0 to begin the game it, essentially, finished right there in that moment.
The United States appeared to have a shock-and-awe gameplan by playing very quickly, something that had Canada on its toes from the opening tip, leading to tentative play and no chance to retaliate before it was already too late.
“They played amazing from the beginning of the game,” said Lapena. “When you play against USA in the semifinal it’s pretty clear that you’re either perfect or they’re going to break the game open in 10-15 minutes.”
Dissatisfied with how they started against Serbia in their quarterfinal matchup, the U.S. looked like they were playing with just a six-second shot clock at times. They continually pushed for transition and semi-transition looks and, when Canada’s half-court defence was actually set, would force quick post-ups for easy lay-ups or a kick-out for three. The Canadian defence was helpless in the face of the American ball movement.
Team USA finished the game scoring 14 points off 15 Canadian turnovers, tallying 16 fastbreak points and eating up the entire with 48 points in the paint.
“I think for any team playing quicker earlier in the offence, before the defence is well positioned, is a goal for any team,” said Reeve. “That’s been an identity that we’ve really hammered and when we’re at our best. And like I said, any team is at their best when they’re playing earlier in the possession. And so, we’ve just really put a strong emphasis on that area.
Looking ahead to the bronze-medal game
Canada will see Australia in the bronze medal game, Friday at 11:00 p.m. ET on Sportsnet.
Should they come out on top, it would be Canada’s first FIBA Women’s World Cup medal since 1986, when the national team topped Czechoslovakia 64-59 to win bronze.
Australia fell to China in a heartbreaker 61-59, setting up a gold-medal matchup between them and the United States.
The host Aussies failed to reach the gold-medal game despite China being without leading scorer Li Meng. The guard missed the semifinal game after reportedly suffering a fever because of fatigue.
For Canada, the chance to square off against Australia for bronze is an opportunity.
Canada’s lone defeat in the group stage came to Australia, 75-72, where Canada blew a 14-point lead and saw Australia storm back in the fourth quarter to steal a victory.
The chance to exact some revenge for an earlier defeat with a podium spot on the line has to be enticing for Team Canada. Better yet, it’s fair to think the Canadians will have something of an advantage.
This late into the tournament, fatigue has set in, especially with how many games teams must play in such a short amount of time.
Given the seesaw, physical affair Australia went through in an all-out scrap against China and the chance Canada got to give its key players rest in a blowout with the U.S., the Canadians should have fresher legs heading into the bronze-medal game.
At the very least, Lapena wants his players to rest up before the big game.
“The players just need to sleep to recover their bodies, and to eat the perfect food to be ready,” Lapena said. “Yes, sleep is very important.”
It’s not a huge advantage, but when you’re fighting for a medal for the first time in 36 years any edge that can be eked out is worth exploring.