Canada basketball
Canada Basketball

Canada and Korea clash Thursday in pivotal Group A matchup at Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

Canada (0-1) vs. Korea (0-1)

When: Wednesday, July 28th, 9 p.m. ET (10 a.m. JST)

Where: Saitama Super Arena

Where things stand:

Looking to bounce back: After recording a narrow 72-68 loss against Serbia in their Tokyo 2020 Women's Olympic Basketball Tournament opener on Monday, Team Canada is looking to get into the win column when they face No. 19 ranked Korea in their second game in Tokyo. While Canada fell to Serbia in their first game, Korea is also eager for a win after being defeated by Spain 73-69 on Monday. 

Much-anticipated return: The Tokyo 2020 Women’s Olympic Basketball Tournament is the Korean Women's Basketball Team's first Olympics since 2008. Though Spain was triumphant in Monday’s game, the game was tight through the first three quarters, with Spain holding just a one-point lead heading into the fourth before pulling away. While it was Korea’s first Olympic game in 13 years, Spain entered Tokyo as the third-ranked team in the world, and the silver medallists in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games. 

Familiar faces: WNBA fans watching from home will likely recognize Park Ji Su, who plays for the Las Vegas Aces. Park, a 6-foot-4 centre, finished with a 17-point, 10-rebound double-double in Monday’s loss to Spain while also adding four assists, three blocked shots and a steal. In addition to playing for the Aces in the WNBA, 22-year-old Park also plays in the Women’s Korean Basketball League where she was named League MVP for the 2020-2021 WKBL season. 

Things to know heading into Canada’s game against Korea at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics:

Stand-out performances: In Canada’s loss to Serbia, Nirra Fields scored a game-high 19 points, while Kia Nurse added 16 and Shay Colley added 12 points. Kang Leeseul led the way offensively for Korea in their loss to Spain, erupting for 26 points to go with seven rebounds. Park Ji Su also added 17 points and 10 rebounds for Korea. Though both teams lost their Olympic openers, the (nearly identical) final scores showed just how competitive both opening games were in the Group Phase for Group A.

“Every game at the Olympics is pressure packed,” Team Canada head coach Lisa Thomaidis said. “We’re here to win every one so the approach doesn’t change at all. Certainly Korea played Spain tight earlier today. There were a number of comments earlier today just about the parity that is in the entire draw. Any team is capable of beating anyone else. It's going to be important for us to respond and come out on top against Korea.”

Doing it with defence: After Canada struggled from the floor in the first half of their opener against Serbia, they got back into the game in the third quarter thanks to their defensive intensity and effort. Canada’s defence helped to force Serbia into 28 turnovers in Monday’s game, including eight in the third quarter alone as the Canadians outscored Serbia 17-9 to get back into the game. 

“We have an experienced group that has a lot of confidence in one another,” Thomaidis said of the team’s effort in that third quarter. “For us it’s a matter of getting back to basics and playing Canadian Basketball. When we did that we got some stops, turned them over on the defensive end, were able to get it out and run in transition, good things happened. Our offensive is going to come from our defence.”

Possession by possession: Though Canada couldn’t pull out the victory against Serbia, the game served as an important reminder in the team’s first game with the entire roster together since February 2020. When things are difficult, or open shots are not falling, controlling the things you can control -- defensive intensity, energy, hustle plays -- will translate onto the offensive end of the floor. It’s also a way to remain in the present.

“Personally, for me and the team it’s one play at a time,” Nirra Fields said after Monday’s game. “We know we’re really good at defence. We really pride ourselves on defence. We understand if our offence isn't working, our best offence is our defence.”

Where to watch: Fans in Canada can catch all of the action live on CBC and streaming live on CBC Gem.