Basketball quarter-finals: 3 keys to Canada vs. France
Kia Nurse, 2nd-chance opportunities will be deciding factors
By Benjamin Blum, CBC Sports
Which Kia Nurse will show up in the quarter-finals against France?
Canada's most recognizable women's basketball player is having an inconsistent Olympics, with performances ranging from a 25-point outpouring against Serbia, to an under whelming game against the United States.
Nurse and the Canadians lost their final two games heading into their matchup with the fourth-ranked French tonight at 9:15 p.m. ET. However, France has looked mortal in its loss to upstart Japan and in a one-point win over Belarus.
Here are three key factors that could decide which team advances to the semifinals:
Both teams have been strong on the offensive glass so far this tournament; Canada and France are both averaging 14.6 offensive rebounds per game. Watch out for a battle in the post between French veteran Sandrine Gruda and Canadian forward Natalie Achonwa.
Ball control will be at a premium in this game as well. Canada owns a plus-seven in terms of turnover plus-minus at the Olympics so far. Conversely, France was minus-11 in its last pool game and minus-two overall, offering Canada an opportunity to capitalize.
There hasn't been much of a happy medium for Canada's shooting. The team opened the tournament shooting 65 per cent from behind the arc against China, but slumped to a 1-for-11 performance in its most recent loss to Spain. France has been more consistent in its three-point shooting, averaging 38 per cent in the tournament while taking (and making) fewer attempts.
While Canada's stingy defence on the wing could mitigate this weapon, the French can exploit the team's vulnerability on the back-door cut to score quick points in the paint. Enter Endy Miyem, a bastion of consistency for France who has scored double-digit points in every game. Brampton, Ont.'s Tamara Tatham will have her hands full with Miyem on the defensive end.
Fouls and free throws
Both teams are currently averaging over 20 fouls per game at these Olympics, but Canada will have to show more discipline against France. The French have shot very well from the free-throw line over their final three games, shooting 76, 75 and 79 per cent, respectively. If Canada continues to foul heavy-handedly, France could distance themselves from the Canadians early.
As well, Nurse will need to mind her personal foul total. The team needs her to be a focal point on the offensive end while checking her French counterpart, Olivia Epoupa, defensively. A few early fouls for the Hamilton native could throw a wrench into Canada's offence that the team might not recover from.