Basketball·Preview

Canadian women go for hoops gold: 3 things to know

Canada is hoping to make history when it faces the U.S. in the gold-medal game of the women's basketball tournament at the Pan Am Games on Monday night (8:30 p.m. ET).

Pan Am Games basketball final features border battle between Canada, U.S.

Point guard Kia Nurse, front, will be a key player if Canada hopes to unseat the Americans in the gold-medal basketball game at the Pan Am Games on Monday night. ((Chris Young/The Canadian Press))

A 91-63 trouncing of Brazil in the semifinals of the Pan Am women's basketball tournament opened the opportunity for Canada to win a Pan Am title on home soil.

One country stands in the way of the Canadians' first ever Pan Am title: their neighbours to the south.

Here are three things you need know to know for Monday night's game, which will be streamed live on CBCSports.ca at 8:30 p.m. ET.

Undefeated

The two North American teams have won all of their contests at this year's Pan Am Games.

The U.S. team, a seven-time Pan Am champion that won gold at the 2007 Games but dropped to bronze in 2011, is back in the final this year after defeating Brazil, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic in the preliminaries. The U.S. barely held on to beat Cuba 65-64 in Sunday's semifinal.

The Canadians won games against Cuba, Argentina and Venezuela in the prelims before knocking out Brazil in the bronze-medal match.

On verge of history

If Canada wins gold tonight, it will be the first time that one of its national basketball teams has won a championship at a major international tournament. (Canada's men's team, led by Jay Triano, did win gold at the 1983 University Games over a U.S. team led by a young Charles Barkley.)

Even if Canada loses, the women's national team will earn its second silver in the event. They finished second at the 1999 Pan Am Games in Winnipeg.

The Americans have controlled the world of basketball for decades, winning six of the last eight Olympic titles. However, the U.S. Olympic Committee has used the Pan Ams as a platform for developing its younger players.

Nonetheless, a Canadian victory would add confidence and momentum to the women, who will host the 2015 FIBA Americas tournament, which is a qualifying event for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

NCAA title teammates face off 

American Breanna Stewart and Canada's Kia Nurse play together at the University of Connecticut, which won this year's NCAA women's basketball championship game against Notre Dame.

But in the Pan Am final, the Canadian freshman and American junior are on opposite ends of the court.

Stewart has the edge in experience. She was named the NCAA Final Four's Most Outstanding Player for each of Connecticut's last three consecutive championships.

The forward was also on the American roster at the last Pan Am Games as the second high school player ever to be selected for the tournament.

Nurse has her own international experience to lean on. The Canadian point guard helped Canada earn a silver medal at the 2013 FIBA Americas.

She was also a starter on Canada's FIBA world roster that finished fifth last year, the highest rank in team history. Stewart and the U.S. would go on to win gold at the same tournament.

As for this year's Pan Am event, Stewart has averaged 22 points per game to Nurse's eight. However, in Sunday's game against Cuba, Stewart scored only one point more than Nurse's nine against Brazil.