Canada comes alive late to crush Korea in Olympic women's basketball
Canadians pick up 1st win in Tokyo as WNBA teammates Carleton, Achonwa lead way
In this Olympic women's basketball tournament, there is little margin for error. And after Canada dropped its opener against Serbia, it had to have Thursday's game against South Korea to retain any hopes of reaching the podium in Tokyo.
Behind a dominating second-half performance, Canada got that crucial victory, blasting Korea 74-53.
"Obviously it was important for us. We treated it as a must-win," said Chatham, Ont.'s Bridget Carleton, who led Canada with 18 points.
It was an early morning tip-off in Tokyo, with the game getting underway at 10 a.m. local time.
"I'm a morning person," Carleton said with a laugh.
Natalie Achonwa also was key for Canada. The Toronto native chipped in 14 points and added 10 rebounds.
"Any win at the Olympics is something to be celebrated," Achonwa said. "I am just really proud of how our team came back from a loss that was disappointing."
WATCH | Canada blasts Korea for 1st win in Tokyo:
Guard Kia Nurse said Canada came into this game really trying not to dwell on its opening-game loss to Serbia.
"It's hard to go through an Olympic tournament and not have a loss somewhere," Nurse said. "We'll take it in the first game rather than later in the tournament."
Achonwa, Carleton and Nurse make up a trio of WNBA stars who are key pieces of an Olympic roster which mixes emerging young players and an experienced veteran core.
Defensively, Canada played with a sense of urgency throughout this game, stifling Korean shooters, who finished a paltry five of 26 from beyond the arc.
"It starts with our defence, our tenacious aggressiveness on and off the ball, flying around and just playing together," said Carleton. "That's what translates to offensive transition and easier looks on the offensive end."
Canada also had a huge rebounding edge, especially on the offensive end where it dominated 22-9, leading to a number of easy second-chance points.
"That was the key to today, the emphasis on how much bigger and stronger we were and we executed that," Achonwa said.
After an ice-cold shooting performance in its first game, a four-point loss to Serbia, Canada shot the ball much better against Korea and appeared more comfortable on offence as the game progressed.
Canadian head coach Lisa Thomaidis was happy with her team's ability to rebound and play "Canada-style basketball," but said there is still more work to be done.
"We've got to be a little bit sharper," Thomaidis said. "We want to play with pace, we want to play with speed. And our decision-making will be the critical difference between beating good teams and great teams."
Canada will play its final round-robin game on Saturday at 9 p.m. ET against Spain.
At the 2018 FIBA World Championships, Canada lost 68-53 to Spain with a team that included many players who remain part of the Canadian roster in Tokyo.
"We are really looking forward to this matchup. They are a team that has been on our radar for a while and we will be ready for them," Thomaidis said.
In Tokyo, 12 teams are divided into three groups of four during the preliminary stage.
The top two teams from each group, plus two wild cards, advance to the quarter-finals.
If Canada wants to play for a medal, winning its group is important. The top finisher will likely avoid a quarter-final matchup against the powerful U.S team.