FIBA Women’s World Cup Takeaways: USA continues dominance, Canada has bright future

Gold medalists the United States celebrate on the podium after defeating China in the final at the women's Basketball World Cup. (Mark Baker/AP)

The FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup has come to a close with the dynasty that is USA Basketball taking home the title in a dominant win over China for their 11th title in the competition.

With 12 nations competing over an 11-day span, and Canada finishing fourth out of the pool of contenders, here are four takeaways from one of the most prestigious competitions in women’s basketball.

Bridget Carleton’s offence earns her All-Star Five nod

While Canada didn’t get the podium finish they wanted, players like Bridget Carleton – at 25 years old – came into their own as respective leaders for their nation when needed most.

Carleton was Canada’s leading scorer averaging 12.8 points per game and was a weapon from the three-point line in group phase games against Japan, Australia and Mali while also using her size as a small forward to crash the boards, averaging 5.3 points per game.

With other sharp shooters like Kia Nurse on a minutes restriction due to her return from injury, or other players inconsistent with their production throughout the tournament, Carleton provided four-straight games with 15 or more points in the group phase of the tournament.

She also was a pillar on defence averaging 1.4 steals and 1.1 blocks per game in the tournament, proving to be a utility player for Canada when they needed to gain a large lead against their opponents and played a key role in Canada’s fourth place finish.

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Canada’s future set up for success

It may be disappointing that Canada have exited their third major competition in a row without a medal after settling for fourth at the Women’s AmeriCup in 2021 and not making the knockout stage at the Tokyo Olympic Games, but head coach Victor Lapeña isn’t worried.

Not only did the team make the semi-finals having to face the eventual winners of the competition, but their fourth-place finish was the team’s best finish at the FIBA Women’s World Cup since they finished third-place in 1986.

Canada had three players in Carleton, Nirra Fields and Kia Nurse averaging double-digit scoring in the competition while Kayla Alexander and Natalie Achonwa were necessary on both sides of the ball as shooters as well as clean-up women.

Younger faces on the team like Laeticia Amihere proved to be gritty on defence, and while some decision making like driving the rim against contact rather than kicking the ball out will change over time, the team as a whole looked cohesive.

“To know after a tough loss yesterday, that today was an amazing opportunity for them in their country to win a bronze medal,” said Lapeña. “I’m not sad or angry with my players. Totally opposite of that. They did their best.”

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Lauren Jackson’s final farewell

30 points, seven rebounds, the record for most FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup games played in history and a bronze medal. Could anything else cap off Lauren Jackson’s incredible career better?

Jackson returned for her fifth World Cup appearance but her first since 2010 and helped the Opals claim hardware in front of sold-out crowds in the most-attended edition of the event to date. But Jackson’s final game was special for more reasons than just her status as a basketball icon.

Her 30 points were the first time she had broken the 20-point mark in a World Cup game since 2006, when the Opals claimed the World Cup title thanks to her help 16 years ago.

Coming out of a nine-year international retirement, Jackson slowly eased into the tournament averaging just 9.9 minutes per game, but showed flashes of her brilliance on the court in 14 minutes against Belgium where she scored 12 points and grabbed two steals, before having her best game of the competition for the bronze medal to call it a career.

“They’re the best group of the girls, I’ve had the best time, and it’s the best journey I’ve had in the sport,” said Jackson.

Can anyone stop team USA?

The short answer: no. Winning their 11th title in the competition – and fourth in a row – dominating the second place team winning by 22 points in an 83-61 victory, and their 98.8 points per game average was 17.4 points higher on average than the second-best team in China.

Seven players averaged 9.2 points per game or more in USA’s all-around dominance of the competition and A’ja Wilson – WNBA MVP and now FIBA Women’s Basketball World

Cup MVP – led the team averaging 17.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game as USA went undefeated.

Alyssa Thomas was named to the tournament All-Second Team averaging 9.9 points, seven rebounds and 4.3 assists per game while Kelsey Plum and Chelsea Gray moved just like they did during the WNBA Finals as playmakers and sharp-shooters for USA.

Even young stand out Shakira Austin managed to average 8.6 points and 4.9 rebounds while averaging just 13.1 minutes of action per game as she proved why she was named to round out the team and make an impact from the bench.

USA were also impossible to fluster defensively, with Wilson and Thomas both averaging over two steals per game, Wilson averaging over a block per game, and the whole team forcing opponents to shoot less than 50 per cent against them.

“We were really determined and defensively today we had 40 deflections – we had some great moments in the game, and obviously A’ja Wilson was spectacular,” said Team USA head coach Cheryl Reeve after the final.

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