Canada got a big win over Belgium winning 61-56 in Ostend, Belgium at Sea’Arena. Belgium is ranked 9th, which is the highest-ranked team besides Canada in their Olympic Qualifying group. Japan ranked 10th and Sweden ranked 22nd are the other two teams in Canada’s Olympic Qualifying Group.
The big reason Canada won because of its defense against Belgium. This included defense, the main reason why Canada won against Belgium.
Canada vs. Belgium Olympic Game Analysis
Canada kept Belgium to only seven points in the first quarter. They also made a lot of defensive stops and steals. The Canadians made it difficult for the Belgians to get any momentum offensively in the first quarter. They created a lot of deflections and steals. These efforts showed up in the statistics. Canada had four blocks and 12 turnovers. This is while Belgium had two blocks and 19 turnovers. This resulted in Canada having a positive turnover ratio of +3 according to FIBA. which led to Canada getting a positive start in the first quarter.
The positive start of Canada was a big reason why Canada won the game. With their tenacious defense, they made it hard for Belgium to score at the paint. Blocks from Canadians like Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe allowed Canadians to take an early 8-2 lead in the first quarter. A big part of that lead came from Kia Nurse who hit a three-pointer to give the Canadians the early 4-2 lead in the first quarter. She and Kayla Alexander led the way for the Canadians to win their first Olympic qualifying game against the Belgians.
Players that Impressed
Nurse, a Hamilton native, who plays for the New York Liberty played a big role in Canada’s win over Belgium. She scored 19 points and was 7-for-9 at the free-throw line. This included a three-pointer late in the third quarter that quieted the crowd in Belgium. She was also +10 when she was on the court, tied for third-highest on the Canadian national team. Furthermore, other players like Alexander stepped up and helped Canada win their first Olympic qualifying game in Belgium.
Kayla Alexander and Others
Alexander, a WNBA player for the Chicago Sky had the second-most points for Team Canada just behind Nurse. She had 12 points and had a 71.4 percent field goal percentage. She also made two key free throws for Team Canada and was a key reason why the Canadians won the game. Other players that played well include Raincock-Ekunwe of the New York Liberty, who had seven points and six assists. Most importantly, she was +19 on the floor, which is the +/- rating for the Canadians.
These three players played well for Canada and as a result, are one game away from qualifying to the summer Olympics in Tokyo. Their next game will be against Sweden, who lost to Japan 75-54 in the other group stage game.
Canada vs. Sweden Preview
The Canadians will be getting a desperate Swedish team trying to qualify for the Olympics. If Sweden loses, they could be in a very difficult position to qualifying for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Japan had already qualified for the Olympics via hosting the 2020 Summer Olympics. This means the other three remaining teams in the group including Canada, Sweden, and Belgium will be fighting for two Olympic spots in Tokyo. If Sweden loses to Canada, Sweden will be in a tough position to make the Olympics. The Swedish would then have to defeat the Belgians to get the Olympic spot in Tokyo.
They might also have to worry about points differential if Japan and Belgium have the same amount of points as Sweden at the end of the group stage. Right now, Sweden has a points differential of -21, which is the worst points differential in the group. More info on the Swedish national women’s team that can be read in this previous article.
Conversely, if the Canadians win against the Swedish, they are in the Olympics regardless of the other results. They are also ranked 4th in the world, which is the highest-ranking of the four teams. They will be considered heavy favorites against Sweden come February 8th in Belgium.
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