team dunked by the Aussies 78-46
"I just dont think we held our
mental focus and then the game was over," says coach
By Dan Barnes
SYDNEY - The coach of Canadas womens
basketball team has thrown down the gauntlet.
In fact, she slapped her team in the face with it first.
Maybe it will wake them up before this Olympic experience slips through their fingers.
"I just dont think we held our mental focus
and then the game was over," said Bev Smith. "Too many people were laying on the
floor, holding their arms or legs. Youve got to play the game through thick and
thin, good and bad.
"When it gets tough, you cant go shopping. Youve
got to get going too."
Smith, clearly unhappy with her squads breakdown in
the first half of an embarrassing 78-46 loss to Australia, a medal favorite here, admitted
she challenged her teams mental toughness afterwards in order to fire them up for a
must-win game against Senegal, clearly a weaker opponent.
Will they respond?
"I dont know. Well see. Were
usually pretty good at bouncing back."
Canada was up against it in their first game of the
Olympic tournament on Saturday. Half of Australias team plays in the WNBA. Smith
said the Australians average 170 international games of experience to Canadas 49.
The Aussies have a 19-year-old sensation, Lauren Jackson, who is surrounded by scads of
older, wiser, more seasoned international players. Jackson was developing her
international game as long as three years ago. That doesnt happen to Canadians and
results like this can in part be attributed to that inexperience.
"Unfortunately, were in the fire with some
developing players," said Smith. "(Aussie coach Thomas Maher) talked about the
evolution of his team. Were back in the prehistoric ages if theyre still
The Aussies dominance evolved after a spotty start
and they eventually looked as good as their press clippings suggested. Canada played with
them for 10 minutes, then saw a three-pointer drop from the hands of point guard Kristi
Harrower and the game was strangely, suddenly, almost a one-team affair.
"I liked the first 10 minutes. I thought we went
after them. Then I thought we auto-deflated," said Smith.
She got no argument from her charges, who shot just 25
percent in the first half.
"Very nasty," admitted guard Cal Bouchard.
Stacey Dales, arguably their best player in the opening
game, said it was simple. Simple mistakes.
"You cant afford five minute spells of poor
play. In the good times we played great defence. In the bad times we lost track of some of
their scorers. Against a team like Australia you cant do that."
If they think they can do it against Senegal, who lost
big to France, theyll need another slap, regardless of what the Senegalese coach
might be saying to the media.
"If we win it would be a miracle," said
Ouesseynou Diop, when asked how his team will do against Canada.
Smith smiled and said that she has seen stranger things
"I think he might be playing some mind games."
Seems theres a bit of that going around.
reprinted with permission