EDMONTON – Canadian coach Lisa Thomaidis is certain that her team didn’t see the best Cuba has to offer.
Kia Nurse scored 14 points to lead Canada to a 92-43 victory over Cuba on Thursday and finish the FIBA Americas women’s basketball championship round robin with a perfect record.
“We can’t kid ourselves. That was not Cuba’s best performance. It is not indicative or how strong their team really is,” Thomaidis said.
“We are all very aware of how these tournaments work. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose by two or 25, you move on.”
Miranda Ayim and Natalie Achonwa chipped in with 12 points apiece for the Canadians (4-0). Canada is attempting to secure a berth in next year’s Rio Olympics by winning the event. Brazil has an automatic placing in the Olympics as the host nation.
“It felt great to be able to do that in front of our home crowd, with it sold out,” Ayim said. “The points on the scoreboard sometimes say something different than it feels on the court. We just wanted to play our best game and show our next opponent what is coming for them.”
It was Canada’s 13th consecutive victory on home soil, a run which includes its impressive gold medal win over the United States at the recent Pan American Games in Toronto.
The Canadians entered the FIBA Americas tourney ranked third in the Americas and 10th in the world, while Cuba is fourth in the zone and 13th globally.
Canada got off to a rapid 9-2 lead and were able to hang on for a 21-13 advantage at the end of the first quarter.
The Canadians clamped down on defence in the second, allowing only six points to the Cubans while stretching their lead to 42-19 at the half. They continued to control the game from there, leading 63-30 heading into the fourth quarter.
Ayim said that nothing can be taken away from her own team’s performance.
“You really want to peak at the right time and that is exactly what we are doing,” she said. “It started at Pan Ams where we got better each game and it feels like we are playing our best basketball now when it counts.”
There has been a long history between the two teams lately, with Canada most recently coming away with a 71-68 victory over the Cubans at the Pan Am Games.
The two teams also played each other twice at the last FIBA Americas in Mexico in 2013 where the Canadians beat Cuba 53-40 in the preliminary round finale to win their group. The Cubans bounced back to defeat Canada 79-71 in the gold medal game three days later.
Anisleidy Galindo had 12 points for Cuba, which fell to 3-1 in the round robin and will face Argentina in Saturday’s semifinals. Canada will face Brazil in the other semi.
Notes – Regardless of how any of the top four teams finish, all have earned automatic entry into next year’s FIBA women’s Olympic qualifying tournament, where they will have a second chance to earn their way to Rio? In its three round-robin games before facing Cuba, Canada outscored its opposition by a combined score of 298-129.