LONDON - Poised to make a return to Olympic action with a major upset, Canada's women's basketball team is instead dealing with a bitter loss caused by a late defensive breakdown.
Becky Hammon scored 14 points as Russia rallied from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter Saturday to beat Canada 58-53 on the opening day of women's basketball at the Olympics.
Trailing 50-40 with six minutes left, Russia closed the game with an 18-3 run led by Hammon, who had eight points down the stretch.
Anna Petrakova hit a three-pointer and a layup to get the spurt started. Hammon's layup with 2:35 left tied the game at 50.
Her basket 30 seconds later gave Russia its first lead since early in the opening quarter. Hammon then scored another layup that made it 54-51 with 1:06 left.
Kim Smith added two free throws but Canada couldn't make another basket the rest of the way. Smith said knowing Canada let a big upset slip away was painful.
"It hurts a little bit more. I don't even know what to say, it is what it is," said Smith. "We know we are a good team, we've known for a while that we need to make more noise and learn from things like this. It's a long tournament and we've been here before so we are going to have to keep fighting. We feel like we can compete with anybody."
Smith scored 20 points to lead Canada, which returned to the Olympics for the first time in 12 years after earning the final spot in women's field.
"We'll debrief this, we'll talk about it and then it's like as soon as we get back to the village this one's over," Smith said. "It's a long tournament, we still have four more games. It's a good thing, (in a previous tournament) this is something that we had to do, get over a loss a lot faster than this one and so we're confident that we can do that."
Canada, ranked 11th, is only the fourth women's team to qualify and play in a Games in 36 years.
Hammon is playing in her second Olympics for Russia. She became a Russian naturalized citizen before the Beijing Games. Because she hadn't played for the United States in any major FIBA-sanctioned international events, she is allowed to compete for Russia in the Olympics.
She helped Russia earn the bronze medal in 2008.
"We have room for growth," Hammon said. "Even though I haven't practised much this year with them, we know each other perfectly well as we played many times internationally."
Canada qualified for the Olympics for the first time since 2000 after finishing fifth in the pre-Olympic qualifier earlier this month.
Canada is in a tough pool with Australia (tied for No. 2-ranked with Russia), sixth-ranked Brazil, No. 8 France, and host Great Britain.
Russia is missing star centre Maria Stepanova. The six-foot-eight star, who has played in the last four Olympics, tore her anterior cruciate ligament at the Euroleague final eight in late March.
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