LONDON -- France picked up its third win in a row in the women's basketball competition of the London 2012 Olympic games, dropping Canada 64-60. The victory did not come easily as Canada gave France, a team ranked No. 8 in the world by FIBA, an intense workout from opening tip to final buzzer.
France led most of the way, but never by more than seven points in a game that saw four ties and eight lead changes. Canada matched the taller French squad point-for-point in the paint, and out-rebounded its adversary by a 40-36 margin. Canada's superior offensive rebounding (19-9) against a taller opponent resulted in a 22-10 advantage in second-chance points, helping to keep the margin narrow.
Early on Canada suffered from poor shooting only connecting on 29-percent of their attempts, which improved, to 35-percent by the end of the game, however they went 0-11 from behind the arc. France went 0-5 from three-point range, but wasted fewer possessions in the process; closer to the basket, the French knocked down better than 50 percent of their shot attempts.
For the second time in as many days of competition, Emilie Gomis was the standard bearer for the French with a team-high 16 points on six-of-eight shooting. Gomis also went a perfect four-of-four from the penalty stripe. Isabelle Yacoubou added 14 points and two blocked shots, while Sandrine Gruda (Connecticut Sun) chipped in 10 points and a team-high seven rebounds, with two blocked shots. Playmaker Celine Dumerc also added 10 points while pulling down five rebounds and three assists.
Courtnay Pilypaitis (Vermont) who had been the go-to scorer for the Canadians in the run-up to the Olympics, was nearly shut down in today's game scoring just two points on one-of-three shooting. Back-up point guard Shona Thorburn (Utah, Seattle Storm-2007) stepped up to fill the void with a game-high 17 points on 50 percent (7-14) from the field; she also grabbed four boards and dished up three assists despite being saddled with four fouls. Rising Notre Dame junior Natalie Achonwa had one of her best games of this Olympic campaign, adding 14 points and a game-high eight rebounds to the Canadian tally, as well as two assists and a steal.
The victory placed France atop the standings in its group and assured Les Bleues of a trip to the quarterfinals. France along with Russian is one of two teams still undefeated in Pool B. French coach Pierre Vincent wants to make sure his squad has done everything it can to remain at the top of Pool B when preliminary-round play ends on Sunday.
"That is the first step," Vincent said of his team's qualification to advance, "but it will not be a good thing if we qualify in fourth position (in the standings). We will wait until the end of the (group stage) competition. We want to avoid the USA."
Meanwhile, the Canadians dropped to 1-2, and are currently in third place in Group B. The top four teams from each round-robin preliminary-round pool will advance to next week's quarterfinals, while the bottom two teams will be eliminated. Win-loss records are the first criterion used to compute the standings, with head-to-head results and the cumulative point spread used as tie-breakers.
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