RIO DE JANEIRO — Canada's women's basketball team rallied from an 18-point deficit Monday to beat Serbia 71-67 at the Rio Olympics.
Kia Nurse scored 25 points to top the Canadians in their thrilling victory over last year's European champions. Captain Kim Gaucher, Miranda Ayim and Nirra Fields added eight apiece while Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe grabbed nine rebounds.
Miah-Marie Langlois drilled a big three-pointer with five seconds remaining — her only points of the game.
The Canadians improved to 2-0 on the tournament after beating China 90-68 in their opener. The Serbs lost their first game 65-59 to Spain.
Canada's players react after beating Serbia at the Youth Arena in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 8, 2016. (Photo: Javio Soriano/Getty)
"It was just a complete team effort and I think after the first half we sat down and said 'Let's get it done on the defensive end,' '' Nurse said. "And that's what we did, came down with some boards and got out in transition and made them run and executed extremely well in the second half.''
The top four from each of the two six-team pools advance to the quarter-finals.
Canada raced out to an early eight-point lead before a pro-Canadian crowd at Youth Arena, but the Serbs tied it 21-21 to end the first quarter. Canada's lacklustre defensive effort saw Serbia lead 40-32 at halftime.
Serbia stretched its lead to 18 points midway through the third and took a 57-45 advantage into the fourth.
Canada's Nirra Fields (10), and Serbia's Jelena Milovanovic (9) battle for the ball. (Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Canada buckled down on the defensive end in the fourth then came up with some huge plays down the stretch. That included a three-pointer by Gaucher, a three-point play by Raincock-Ekunwe and then the big three from Langlois.
No. 14-ranked Serbia is a team on the rise, winning the European championships last year to become the second club behind the United States to claim an Olympic berth.
The ninth-ranked Canadians, meanwhile, captured a historic first-ever gold at the Pan American Games last summer in Toronto. Then they won the FIBA Americas Olympic qualifying tournament in Edmonton a couple weeks later.
Canada's roster here is identical to the one that won Pan Am gold and also includes seven players from the 2012 London Olympic squad that reached the quarter-finals.
The Canadians face Senegal on Wednesday. The mighty Americans plus Spain are the other teams in Canada's group.
Canada's top Olympic finish was fourth at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.