Australia's Steph Talbot shoots as Canada's Natalie Achonwa defends during their game at the women's Basketball World Cup in Sydney, Australia, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mark Baker

Australia hands Canada its first loss at FIBA World Cup

Host Australia handed Canada’s women’s basketball team its first lost at the FIBA World Cup on Monday.

Ezi Magbegor scored 16 points as the Aussies topped Canada 75-72

Nirra Fields scored a game-high 17 points for Canada, while Bridget Carleton scored 16 and Kia Nurse chipped in with 11.

Kayla Alexander had four points and 11 rebounds for Canada, who led 57-51 after three quarters.

The win caused a log-jam atop Group B with Australia, Canada and France all with three wins with one game left for each team.

Canada beat France 59-45 earlier in the tournament.

“We knew coming into this it would be a tough group for us” Magbegor said. “Everything would count for us. We have another tough one tomorrow against Japan.”

Nurse drained a three-pointer that gave Canada a 63-60 lead just over three minutes into the final quarter. It was Canada’s final lead as Australia employed a smothering defence to pull away from the Canadians.

Magbegor recorded four of her game-high five shot blocks over the final five minutes.

“They just played really great team defence towards the end and we made a couple mistakes and they really just punished us for it,” said Fields. “Overall it was a good game and we really fought hard.”

Despite the loss, Canadian coach Victor Lapena was pleased with his team’s performance in front of raucous Australian crowd.

“We dominated the game in two periods and Australia dominated the game in two periods. Finally, we lost by three points. We were very close and this is very important for our future because today we got experience in this kind of atmosphere,” said Lapena. “I’m sure in the future when we have these kinds of games or moments, we will be better and solve some situations that today we didn’t resolve in a smart way.”

The Canadians trailed by five in the early minutes but closed the first quarter with a 15-5 run, and Shay Colley’s three-pointer at the buzzer sent them into the second with a 25-14 lead.

Canada extended its lead to 14 but a 19-0 run put Australia up 38-33 at halftime.

Magbegor and Tess Madgen each had six points during the run.

“I knew (Ezi) would have his kind of game and I didn’t know when it would be,” said Australia’s Sami Whitcomb, who had 15 points. “It was massive for us tonight, I’m so proud of her. She showed up when we needed her in the biggest moment.”

Canada closes the preliminary round against winless Mali on Tuesday.

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