The Canadian Women’s National Team started their Olympic Qualifying journey today in Sopron, Hungary by facing off against the host team.
No. 19 Hungary came into this tournament with a newer roster of players ready to compete for a chance to head to the Olympics. Yet, against no.5 Canada, it was gonna be hard to match up.
Unfortunately for Canada, Kia Nurse sustained a minor injury in training camp last week and was ruled out of the tournament, but is on the bench supporting her teammates this week.
Canada Dominates Opening Game
Canada was still able to start strong despite missing the presence of Nurse. They went up big 25-11 in the first quarter, dominant on the glass and being tough in the paint. On the defensive end, back-to-back steals by Sami Hill and some great rebounds by Alexander helped the Canadians gain a large lead.
Despite a slow offensive start, Hungary got it going in the second quarter. Minnesota Lynx big Dorka Juhasz along with Bernedett Hatar made it hard for Canada in the paint. They brought the game back within two possessions, but Canada did not take their foot off the gas.
They were able to maintain their 10-point lead through the incredible defence from Bridget Carleton, Syla Swords, Kayla Alexander and others. The team had hands everywhere, making steals and making it hard for Hungary to come back.
Canada went into the halftime break up 41-30 over Hungary.
In the third quarter, Hungary did not fade away. They took advantage of Canada’s struggles on the perimeter, trying to force them to make those shots. Yet, they couldn’t convert on their own offensive end.
With Canada active on the glass on both ends, they just kept giving themselves more opportunities to keep their lead. In a pivotal moment where Hungary came within five points of catching up with Canada, Canada was able to get a few stops, and bring their lead back to nine.
It was ALL Canada to end the third quarter, with the team going up 16 points over Hungary. Despite continued struggles shooting the three, Canada’s rebounding was the factor in shutting down Hungary’s bigs in this game.
Canada continued that dominance in the fourth quarter while also adding in some offensive power, finally getting a few three pointers to fall in.
After extending their lead to 20+ at points in the fourth quarter, Canada solidified their win, beating Hungary 67-55 and going to 1-0 in the tournament.
Stars of the Match
It was a team effort on both ends of the court in today’s win. Kayla Alexander had 15 points, 13 rebounds, three steals, one assist and one block. She was absolutely CRASHING the glass, especially on the defensive end.
Especially when you think of the power of the Hungarian bigs, Bernadette Hatar ad Dorka Juhasz, who Canada held to four points and 13 points respectively. Alexander and Natalie Achonwa did an excellent job of defending in the paint.
Juhasz was the only Hungarian player to score more than 10 points in the game.
Leading all scorers was Bridget Carleton with 18 points, six rebounds, three assists, three steals. She was one of two players on team Canada to sink a three point shot, shooting 2-for-8 on the night.
Also in double digit scoring for Canada were Natalie Achonwa and Shay Colley with 10 points each. Achonwa added eight rebounds, two assists, and three steals to her stat line, a huge defensive presence for this team.
Sami Hill was also a huge defensive presence for Canada, grabbing three rebounds and one steal. She was extremely effective in limiting the Hungarian back court as they only sunk two three pointers in the entire game.
The 18-year-old Syla Swords also played extended minutes, scoring two points, two rebounds, one assist, one block and THREE steals in just over eight minutes of play.
BACK TO BACK STEALS FOR SWORDS— Raptors HQ (@RaptorsHQ) February 8, 2024
Absolutely holding her own against these experienced WNBA/Euro players. Incredible. https://t.co/jPmhgie6Rt
Important Game Against Spain
The Canadians will play again tomorrow morning at 9:30am EST against no.4 ranked Spain. It will be extremely important game for Canada, as a win could pretty much clinch their spot at the Olympics.
Spain lost against Japan earlier today before Canada even played, and as the top-ranked team in the tournament, Canada having an edge over them is great.
If Canada wants to come out strong against Spain, three point shooting is something to improve on after the team shot 20% (3-15) from distance today. They played excellently in the paint against Hungary, and that energy plus improved shooting from three will help them beat a strong Spanish group.
Hungary getting a win against Japan tomorrow would help Canada as well, but the Japanese program has been steadily improving for years and can’t be counted out.
All eyes will be on this important match up between the top ranked teams in the tournament. You can watch Canada vs Spain on Friday at 9:30am EST, streaming on Sportsnet.
Canada up 21 with under 2 minutes to go, seems like that will do it for this game. They'll fight until the end though, because point differential matters.— Raptors HQ (@RaptorsHQ) February 8, 2024
Tournament after day 1:
Big game against Spain tomorrow