Canada remains undefeated at FIBA ​​Women’s World Cup with 59-45 win over France


It took less than five minutes for Canada’s women’s basketball team to turn Friday’s World Cup game against France into an antics.

The Canadiens’ 17-0 streak that spanned the second and third quarters surprised even coach Victor Lapena.

“17? I didn’t know,” Lapena said with raised eyebrows in the post-match press conference. “Fantastic.”

Nirra Fields scored 17 points, while Kayla Alexander had 14 rebounds plus nine points and the Canadians (2-0) beat France 59-45 to remain the only undefeated team in Group B.

Shay Colley added 11 points for the Habs, who have never trailed and led by as much as 20 points.

“We played really good team basketball today, especially on the defensive end, we were really stuck on the game plan, which is what the coaches asked us to do,” Alexander said.

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Gabby Williams scored 13 points to top France.

READ MORE: Achonwa among headliners on Canadian basketball roster for World Cup practice

The Canadians’ victory came two days after a 67-60 win over Serbia, and they nearly clinched a quarter-final berth as the top four teams from each group advance. A high result in the preliminary round and a strong point differential will be essential to avoid the Americans in the knockout round.

Meanwhile, No. 6 France faced third-placed Australia 67-59 but looked nothing like that winning side against a stifling Canadian defence.

“I like that we change our defenses because it usually confuses opponents, it can cause them to lose their rhythm and it just shows as a team that we’re locked in and we’re capable of actually executing when the coach throw something else out there,” Alexander said.

“So I really like being able to mix things up and throw something different at our opponents, trying to get them to move a bit.”

It was the second solid game for the 31-year-old Alexander, who led Canada in scoring against Serbia with 13 points. His bustle on the boards on Friday saw Canada overtake France 56-38.

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“I know I’m not a very vocal person. I’m more of a quiet leader,” Alexander said.

“I try to lead by example, but knowing that you have coaches and teammates who trust you and believe in you means a lot. I’m very grateful.

Click to play video: 'WNBA player Kayla Alexander reflects on walkouts'

WNBA player Kayla Alexander reflects on walkouts

WNBA player Kayla Alexander reflects on walkouts – August 31, 2020

Phoenix Mercury goaltender Kia Nurse had seven points, including five in the opening five minutes, as she continues her comeback from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee nearly a year ago.

READ MORE: Ahead of FIBA ​​World Cup, Nurse recalls ‘difficult to play’ WNBA season without Griner

Lapena, who was signed in January after Canada’s disappointing preliminary-round exit at the Tokyo Olympics, was pleased with his team’s defensive effort but would like to see improvement on the offensive end.

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“I think as a coach I would like… to give them the tools to score at least 10 more points,” said the Spaniard. “We have players with points in their hands.

“I have to think, study our possibilities to give them the tools… to take advantage of more attack.”

Canada shot just 29 percent from the field and 30 percent from three-pointers. France shot 37%, but only went 3 for 19 – 16% – from behind the arc.

Both teams struggled to score in a lousy first quarter that saw the Canadians take an early six-point lead and lead 15-9 to start the second.

The Canadians regained their offensive momentum late in the half, finishing with a 9-0 streak in the 1:45 final punctuated by a Bridget Carleton three-pointer. Fields’ layup with 15 seconds left sent Canada into halftime with a 29-17 lead.

The Canadians started the second half with an 8-0 streak, capped by a three-point shot from Colley that put Canada into a 20-point lead. France closed the gap to 13 points late in the third quarter, but Fields’ layup gave Canada a 45-30 lead with one quarter to play.

The French came back to within 11 points at the end of the fourth quarter, but that was as close as they would get.

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READ MORE: Okanagan resident to play for Canada at Women’s Basketball World Cup

Canada will face Japan (1-1), the reigning Olympic silver medalists, on Sunday. Asked what will be key to beating the Japanese, Lapena said he and his team would come together to think about defensive strategies.

“The players are going to be super tired the next day so… we’ll make it easy for them to execute, and they’re doing a great job, a great job defending and the attitude is perfect,” said the coach.

Japan crushed Mali 89-56 in their opener before dropping a 69-64 decision to Serbia.

The Canadians will face Australia on Monday and Mali on Tuesday to conclude the preliminary round.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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