Canada put together another third-quarter defensive masterclass, and this time it led to a win over South Korea. Only a game after holding the Serbians to seven points in the third, Canada stymied the Koreans until 5:20 were remaining in the quarter, as Canada’s point-of-attack defense and rim protection stymied any and all offensive possessions. Canada’s offense remains a work in progress, but their superior athleticism and shot-making allowed Canada to lead for virtually the entire contest.
This game was a study in contrasting styles. Canada’s offense often ground down to static sets that saw late-clock pick and rolls try to save each possession. That they were so often able to score spoke more to Canada’s talent level than its execution. On the other hand, Korea’s offense relied on complex motion sets, off-ball screening, and constant movement. When it worked, it yielded fantastic shots for Korea. But when Canada was able to throw a wrench in the spokes of Korea’s beautiful machine, the Koreans had little chance of scoring. Canada’s individual defenders were capable of annihilating Korea’s scorers in isolation.
Fortunately for Canada, Shay Colley returned from a shoulder injury to lead Canada in the half-court for stretches. Her ability to shake free of defenders and use her incredible strength and wiggle in the lane to get to the rim was lifeblood for Canada’s offense. Even when she wasn’t scoring, she threw pinpoint passes as the pick-and-roll orchestrator to create layups for her bigs. She finished with nine points. Bridget Carleton led Canada with 18, as she dominated Korea in the fourth quarter, hitting jumpers and reaching the free throw line.
When Korea dialed up the pressure in the second half trying to force turnovers, that’s when Canada’s offense finally broke free. Every possession had the speed and dynamism of fast-break looks, and Canada’s scorers started to catch fire. Though the final score indicated a blowout, Canada only led by tiny margins for the majority of the game. It wasn’t until the fourth that the Canadians finally pulled ahead.
At the same time, Kia Nurse remained cold for Canada. However, she smartly shifted away from the ball-dominating role to which she is accustomed and allowed her teammates to run the show. Canada will need Nurse at her best to medal in the Olympics, but for now it’s a good sign that Canada could perform so well without its best player at her best.
Canada decided to focus on the rim against Korea. Canada made only four 3s against Korea, one fewer than they made against Serbia. But they attempted 10 fewer. The decision to attack the paint benefited them greatly, as they were able to find more reliable sources of offense despite their distance shooting remaining cold. Canada was able to depend on free throws at the very least, while their offense against Serbia had no such foundation on which they could build.
It was another flawed game for Canada against Korea, but it was more than enough to win. The Canadians are one of the most talented squads at the Olympics, and that they have another gear or two to reach should be encouraging for Canada in regards to its future matchups. The Canadians will face Spain on Saturday July 31 at 9 pm EST.