While falling short against the Americans is never fun, Canada’s women’s basketball team is still in a good position at Rio 2016.
Canada started strong against the top-ranked USA on Friday, holding the score to 18-16 after the first quarter, but ultimately fell by a score of 81-51.
“They’re the best team in the world, so obviously keeping it tight in the first half is not enough,” said Canadian guard Nirra Fields. “We have to be able to sustain that throughout the whole game.”
The loss was Canada’s first of the competition, after wins over China, Serbia and Senegal. Canada and Spain now sit tied for second place in Group B, with their matchup on Sunday determining who will take that placement—and a more favourable draw for the quarterfinals.
Though Canada, ranked No. 9 in the world, will come in as underdogs against the No. 3-ranked Spanish, the game against the powerful American team did provide some potentially useful lessons.
“We’re going to take some of the things from today (against USA),” said Canadian forward Natalie Achonwa. “They run a couple of similar offences to the USA so it was great practice today.”
Indeed, the team isn’t wallowing after the loss to the USA. Instead, they’re hoping to carry momentum forward, in search of the team’s first-ever spot on the Olympic podium (Canada’s best previous finish in women’s basketball was fourth place at Los Angeles 1984).
“Our team continues to really build in offence and defence,” said Fields. “With every game we’re trying to get a little bit better, so when we get to the final game we’re on our best.”
The result against Spain will determine whether Canada finished second or third in Group B—which, in turn, will decide their opponent (likely to be France, Japan or Turkey) in Tuesday’s must-win quarterfinal game.