Canada escapes, advances to Manila OQT semi-final

In what was a grind-it-out, do-whatever-it-takes-to-win type of game, Canada was able muster enough offense plus some timely stops, overcoming a spotty overall rebounding effort to squeeze out a 58-55 win against a oozing-with-athleticism Senegal side playing without 6’11” Giorgei Dieng of the Minnesota Timberwolves.  Canada was able to defend Senegal’s final possession which turned out to be a somewhat-desperate look at 3 as the buzzer sounded.  Once again, 6’2″ Cory Joseph was key for Canada, especially down the stretch, finishing with 13 points and making 3 of 4 free throws in the final minute – he did miss the first of two with about 6 seconds remaining giving Senegal some life.  Joseph continues to read the ball screen very effectively however today’s game was difficult for any Canadian driving to the rim given Senegal’s stable of crazy athletic rim protectors.  Usually the ability to make shots can loosen up a packed in “d” however today Canada shot just 2 for 17 from beyond the arc including a collective 0 for 9 from usually dependent sharpshooters Brady Heslip and Phil Scrubb.  Heslip uncharacteristically went 0 for 7 including several wide open looks that are usually automatic.  Expect that Canada’s perimeter shooting woes today are an aberration and that Heslip and Co. will come out gunning in Saturday’s semi-final, likely to be against New Zealand.  Canada had all kinds of trouble scoring the ball from anywhere today and with no solid inside scorer who the ball can be dumped down to, creating off the dribble and making perimeter shots is essential.  The athletic Senegal guards did a great job of guarding the ball, keeping Joseph and 6’1″ Tyler Ennis in front of them, negating the need for consistent rotations and Senegal’s long front line was all over the offensive glass.  But Canada persevered, getting a decent effort from Ennis (12 points including a very important baseline scoop late in the game) and 6’7″ Melvin Ejim, who finished with 11 points and 8 rebounds including one of Canada’s two 3’s.  6’9″ Anthony Bennett (7 points, 7 rebounds) hit the other.  Canada got a nice contribution from veteran 6’9″ center Joel Anthony, who in retrospect had one of the bigger buckets of the game, a put-back just nanoseconds before the first half buzzer sounded.  Canada’s 6’7″ three-man Thomas Scrubb once again produced an under-rated effort with two important “o” boards that included a put-back and created a couple of loose balls.  While this game was a tad too athletic for him, he continues to do the little things that rarely show up in a box score (or are recognized by our partisan play-by-play crew).  Canada also struggled at the free throw line, going just 14 for 23 with Ennis and 6’11” Tristan Thompson going a combined 3 for 10.  Ennis, while handling effectively on the perimeter, still appears reluctant to knock shots down when defenders go under screens and Thompson simply is not a great finisher with his back to the basket but is clearly strong as an offensive rebounder and finisher at the end of dribble penetration.  Joseph is clearly the leader and most important player on this team and hopefully we will get to see a wonderful match up between him and France’s Tony Parker, assuming these referees don’t spoil things – these games continue with a shroud of mystery and perplexity surrounding virtually every call.  Canada will face off against the loser of tomorrow’s France/New Zealand game on Saturday.  Go Canada !


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