In the grind of a FIBA World Cup, being adaptable is vital to any team’s success with games coming fast and furious, creating challenges not only physical but mental against opponents who present myriad difficulties.
That adaptability will keep a team fresh and challenge its concentration. Flitting from one style to another and having a few different looks to present is huge. And in the infancy of this tournament, Canada’s ability to change things up boldly and subtly, on defence and offence, has the women’s team in fine shape.
A 59-45 win over France early Friday was Canada’s second in a row, and the signs that have emerged bode well for the rest of the 12-country event in Australia.
Some traditional woman-to-woman defence with zone sprinkled in helps everyone stay alert, while two point guards at times and a big lineup that includes a couple of centres has kept the offence at least a bit unpredictable. Most important? It keeps everyone fresh.
“I like that we switch up our defences because it throws the opponents off track … It can get them out of their rhythm and it just shows as a team that we’re locked in, and that we’re able to actually execute when coach throws something else out there,” veteran centre Kayla Alexander said after Friday’s win.
The need for different schemes is wildly important in a global tournament against opponents with a variety of styles. Serbia, Canada’s first opponent, was far more physical than France; Japan, which will face Canada on Sunday (6:30 a.m., Sportsnet), is a high-powered, perimeter-oriented team; Australia, Canada’s penultimate opening-round opponent, is perhaps more traditional than any other team in the group; and Mali, which lost its first two games by an average of 46.5 points, should present little challenge.
Canada needs game plans for every eventuality, while not overloading players.
“I think they believe in us,” coach Victor Lapeña said after the win over France. “Our assistant coaches talk with me … and finally, for sure, I make the last decisions, but the key is to give to the players reduced total information because we played yesterday, we played today, we are going to play after tomorrow.
“The players are going to be super tired the next day, so we are doing this to reduce information and make it easier for them to execute and they are doing a great job … and the attitude is perfect.”
France’s offence was brutal, to be sure — they missed an array of easy looks and shot 31 per cent from the floor — but Canada’s defence was effective. The frontcourt combination of Alexander, Natalie Achonwa and Laeticia Amihere took care of the interior, while the rest of the roster hounded France into 14 turnovers.
Bridget Carleton said before the tournament that a variety of defensive looks is a huge plus for Canada.
“We have, like, five different defences we can throw at teams,” she said. “In exhibition games, we ran all five against both of those teams and that’s really fun, just to keep other teams on their toes and kinda mix ’em up a little bit.”
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