UConn's Kia Nurse comes up big as Canada rallies for crucial Olympic victory
In the three exhibition games in the USA Basketball Showcase and in the Olympic opener against China, Nurse was not the same aggressive, confident player for Canada that she was last summer while leading her country to the Pan Am and FIBA Americas titles.
That all changed with Canada in danger of losing a pivotal pool play game to Serbia on Monday.
Nurse was 7 for 11 from the field including 3 of 4 from 3-point range as she finished with a game-high 25 points to go with five assists and two steals.
“It was just a complete team effort,” Nurse said in a release. “After the first half we said, 'Let's get it done on the defensive end' and that's what we did. We came down with some boards, got out in transition. We made them run and executed extremely well in the second half.”
Serbia took a 52-34 lead when Sasa Cado hit a 3-pointer with 5:27 left in the third quarter. Nurse had seven points and an assist as Canada cut the lead to 12 heading into the fourth quarter.
Nurse was 6 for 6 from the line in the first 1:38 of the fourth quarter to pull Canada within six. Nirra Fields tied the game at 59 on a 3-pointer with 4:46 left to play. Nurse drove into the lane and kicked a pass out to Kim Gaucher for a go-ahead 3-pointer to give Canada a 63-61 lead with 2:45 left. Serbia regained the lead on a pair of free throws by Ana Dabovic to make it a 67-65 with 1:11 remaining.
Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe converted a three-point play with 48 seconds left to put Canada ahead 68-67. After a turnover by Serbia gave the ball back to Canada with 31 seconds to play, the decision was made not to foul by Serbia. Canada put the ball in Nurse's hands as she assisted on Miah-Marie Langlois' 3-pointer with 8 seconds remaining.
There's still plenty of basketball yet to be played but a loss to Serbia could very well of left Canada slotted in as the No. 4 team out of Group B which would likely have resulted in a quarterfinal matchup against a powerful Australia team. Now, even if Canada were to lose to the United States and Spain, it should finish in the top three in Group B which would mean a quarterfinal opponent that Canada would have a much better chance to beat than if Australia was the foe in the quarters.
I went back and did some checking and Nurse came one point shy of the Olympic single-game record by a Canadian women's player as Sylvia Sweeney scored 26 points against Japan in 1976.
Here's the list of 20-point games by Canadian women's players
26 Sylvia Sweeney vs. Japan 1976
25 Kia Nurse vs. Serbia 201624 Carol Turney vs. U.S. 1976
24 Bev Smith vs. Yugoslavia 1984
21 Alison Lang vs. Korea 1984
21 Bev Smith vs. Congo 1996
20 Dianne Norman vs. Congo 1996
20 Kim Smith vs. Russia 2012
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