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September 16, 2000  

Women's team dunked by the Aussies 78-46

"I just don’t think we held our mental focus and then the game was over," says coach

By Dan Barnes
Southam Newspapers

SYDNEY - The coach of Canada’s women’s 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 don’t 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. You’ve got to play the game through thick and thin, good and bad.

"When it gets tough, you can’t go shopping. You’ve got to get going too."

Smith, clearly unhappy with her squad’s breakdown in the first half of an embarrassing 78-46 loss to Australia, a medal favorite here, admitted she challenged her team’s mental toughness afterwards in order to fire them up for a must-win game against Senegal, clearly a weaker opponent.

Will they respond?

"I don’t know. We’ll see. We’re usually pretty good at bouncing back."

Canada was up against it in their first game of the Olympic tournament on Saturday. Half of Australia’s team plays in the WNBA. Smith said the Australians average 170 international games of experience to Canada’s 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 doesn’t happen to Canadians and results like this can in part be attributed to that inexperience.

"Unfortunately, we’re in the fire with some developing players," said Smith. "(Aussie coach Thomas Maher) talked about the evolution of his team. We’re back in the prehistoric ages if they’re still evolving."

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 can’t 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 can’t do that."

If they think they can do it against Senegal, who lost big to France, they’ll 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 happen.

"I think he might be playing some mind games."

Seems there’s a bit of that going around.

reprinted with permission

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