Canada came up short of the podium at the 2022 FIBA World Cup, losing 95-65 to the hosts Australia in the bronze medal game.
Lauren Jackson scored 30 points in her return from retirement, looking as spry as ever as she consistently punished the Canadians inside, using her strength to exploit one of the few weaknesses on the Canada roster: there lack of true big. Nathalie Achonwa primarily guarded her but gave up almost a half a foot to Jackson, who punished her in the post.
Canada’s vaunted defense — the best in the entire tournament up until the medal round — allowed Australia to score 95 points on 50 percent shooting and 24/27 from the free-throw line and 7/23 from three. Canada simply couldn’t keep up with Australia’s ball movement and ability to score from all three levels of the floor.
Canada meanwhile were led by 19 points from Kia Nurse, who really found her form as the tournament went on is will build off a good return from injury. But the team as a whole shot just 4/22 from three and 13/22 from the stripe, failing to knock down enough threes or get to the free-throw line often enough to keep up with Jackson and the Australians.
Still, Canada’s fourth-place finish is the team’s best finish at a Women’s World Cup since they won bronze in 1986.
“Obviously, it didn’t end the way that we wanted it to, but I’m proud of this team,” Nurse said after the game. “I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish. We read articles and know that no one thought we’d make it out of our pool and here we are. I think it’s a tough way to end a tournament, but [we look at this like] building blocks. I’m proud of the way this team fought and I’m proud of the resilience of this team.”
This was always something of a developmental tournament for the Canadians. Head Coach Victor Lapena talked constantly about wanting to get his young team experience playing the best teams in high-leverage situations, and he got that with games against 6 of the top-ranked teams in the world. He has also talked about wanting to peak in Paris 2024 and even L.A. 2028, so it’s a longterm plan for Canada, although this was a solid place to start.
The Canadians proved that they are one of the best teams in the world, but there were still three clearcut better teams including the U.S.A., China (who lost a close one to the Americans in the final) and Australia (who beat Canada twice). They will need to improve on some areas of weakness if they hope to medal in Paris, including their defense against bruising bigs like Jackson — hence the reps for 18-year-old Phillipina Kyei; their three-point shooting, as they shot just 30 percent in the tournament, hence the emergency of NCAA players like Shy Day-Wilson and Marissa Russell; and their ability to get to the line after getting their just 15 times per game in the tournament, hence the reps for 23-year-old walking-mismatch Laeticia Amihere.
Canada will look to build off this finish as they look to qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games and try to finish on the podium at the games. For now, the players will go back to the NCAA, Europe and the WNBA and try to put Canada on the map in their respective leagues. Until the next time Canada comes calling.