SYDNEY, Australia (Sept. 22, 2022) - The Canadian Senior Women’s National Team defeated Serbia 67-60 on Thursday in their first game at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022 in Sydney, Australia.
Canada was led by a 13-point, seven-rebound, two-block performance for Kayla Alexander, 12 points from Nirra Fields and 10 points and eight rebounds from Natalie Achonwa.
“Kayla Alexander, Euroleague level, many years played in Canada, 32 years old, one of the most important Canadian players in our history,” Team Canada head coach Víctor LaPeña said. “I’m super happy because she’s one of our leaders. Maybe she doesn’t talk too much, [with] her voice, [but] she speaks with her teammates, and everybody is, ‘Kayla talked about it, let’s do it.’”
Kia Nurse scored nine points in her first game back after being sidelined for 11 months as she rehabbed from an ACL injury, including Canada’s first three points of the game. She also finished with three assists in 19 minutes of action in a much welcomed return to the court. Yvonne Anderson had 18 points and Tina Krajisnik added 17 for Serbia in the loss.
After the opening 10 minutes, Canada trailed by a point, 16-15. The Canadians took control in the second, outscoring Serbia 23-12 in the quarter. When Krajisnik tied the game at 18 points, a layup from Colley and then an offensive putback for Alexander put Canada ahead 22-18 with 8:05 remaining. They never trailed again despite Serbia putting on the pressure throughout the second half.
“I thought we did a good job coming in and finishing the game together,” Colley said. “You know, all our hard work over the past month and a half together just really showed off and we knew Serbia was going to come out very hard and aggressive, so just sticking together towards the end with poise and trusting in each other.”
As Colley mentioned, Serbia started the game extremely aggressive on the glass and held a 15-7 edge on the boards after the first quarter. They also had six offensive rebounds to just one for Canada. In the second quarter, Canada prevented Serbia from collecting a single offensive rebound. By halftime, Canada’s defence had helped to force Serbia into 11 turnovers. By the end of the game, Serbia had 19 turnovers to 14 for Canada.
“I’m super happy,” LaPeña said of his team’s effort defensively. “They don’t give up. They don't rest on the court. When they rest on the court, it’s because they don’t realize it. As a coach, what more can I ask them. They are working all the time and they trust in my job, in our [coaching staff]. When you play with your best, when you play with the maximum possibilities that you have, good things happen. We are not perfect but we are learning this process.”
After a steal from Nurse and then a layup for Alexander, Serbia responded as Mina Djordjevic connected on a hook shot, but Nurse came right back with a hook shot of her own to keep Canada in front by seven with 1:30 remaining in the half. Alexander found Achonwa inside to give Canada the team’s largest lead of the game by nine points until Alexander made one of two free throws with a second remaining to extend the advantage to double figures at the half, 38-28.
The intensity from both teams carried over into the third quarter where Canada maintained the lead. Canada continued to provide pressure on the defensive end, forcing Serbia into turnovers as well as a 24-second shot clock violation. A three for Yvonne Anderson brought Serbia within eight with 4:26 remaining in the third, but Serbia was unable to string together enough stops to regain control.
After Kristina Topuzovic and Alexander traded blocked shots, Fields scored on a pull-up jumper to extend Canada’s lead back to 10 points. A gorgeous drive from Amihere for a layup and then a jumper from Nurse kept Canada in front by 12. Canada closed the third strong with an offensive rebound and putback for Achonwa and then a block for Fields to go into the fourth with a 13-point lead.
The teams traded baskets for much of the final quarter, but Serbia was unable to get the stops needed to make a big enough push despite Krajisnik’s best efforts. A drive down the lane for Krajisnik made it 61-52 for Canada with 4:08 remaining and then Colley was called for an offensive foul. Another bucket for Krajisnik made it a seven point game until Colley scored on a layup. Krajisnik scored again for Serbia, but Alexander responded for Canada, keeping the lead at nine with 2:47 remaining as Serbia ran out of time to try to complete a comeback.
Up next, Canada will face France on Friday at 4 a.m. ET.