Workmanlike effort propels Canada to Group D championship


Canada 99, U.S. Virgin Islands 69… Wearing down the opponents with their depth, Canada got a balanced scoring effort from several sources in a dominant win over U.S. V.I.  Both teams will advance to the next qualifying stage after Canada pulled away midway through the second quarter and then used their entire bench liberally to gain leads of 30+ in the fourth.  The game was played at TD Place at Lansdowne in Ottawa before an estimated 5,000 fans in a nice venue that sets up well for basketball events including the 2020? U Sports Final 8.

7’0″ Kelly Olynyk led five Canadians in double figures with 14 points on a perfect 4-4 inside the arc, showing off his virtually-effortless mid-range game and capping his performance with a spectacular, difficult one-handed ally-oop slam dunk in the third quarter.  Carleton grad 6’3″ Phil Scrubb, fresh off an invitation to the Washington Wizards NBA Las Vegas summer league invite, added 14 including a pair of open threes as Canada went 9-29 (31%) in an admittedly lackluster effort from downtown given the number of wide open 3’s afforded by the U.S. Virgin Islands “d”.

6’6″ Dillon Brooks made both his 3’s and was a factor especially in defensive transition with several deflections that led to turnovers and easy Canadian scores – Brooks continues to play hard no matter what the situation or the outcome of the previous play.  6’7″ phenom R.J. Barrett was again magnificent in transition with at least two text-book Euro-step finishes as the rising Duke freshman displayed his mature offensive game.

Barrett’s new Blue Devils squad out of the ACC will, by several accounts of fans in Ottawa this afternoon who approached me directly to channel their frustrations, “duck” our Nation’s Capital on their August tour of Canada.

Captain Canada 6’3″ Cory Joseph (11 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists) flashes his slick handle on a couple of occasions with a spinning attack at the rim and several no-look passes that led to lay-ups or dunks while steady 6’10” Dwight Powell is a wonderful complement in and around the paint to Olynyk’s high-end perimeter skills.

Rising NCAA Division 1 freshman Andrew Nembhard saw considerable action – he was part of the first group off the bench for Canada – and, after air-balling his first three from the right corner, quickly showed why many consider the Vaughan S.S. grad as Canada’s point guard of the future with 6 assists, generally getting to where he wanted on the floor and making strong decisions.

Defensively, Canada was generally sound with the opponents making several high-degree-of-difficulty shots early to keep it close through the early stages of the second quarter.  U.S. Virgin Islands looked to initially isolate Barrett, who held up reasonably well on the defensive end guarding the ball however Canada’s strong rotations and rim protection forced several late-shot-clock looks and time-clock violations in the win.

Looking ahead to the second round of qualifying, Canada will be designated as team D1 in Group F and will play three home-and-home series against the top three teams from Group B which, pending tonight’s results, appear to be – assuming Venezuela defeats Chile tonight – B1 Venezuela (which I believe own the tie-breaker vs. Brazil), B2 Brazil and B3 Chile.

If that is the case, Canada’s second round schedule is as follows:

Thursday, September 13th, 2018:  Brazil at Canada (game rumored to be in Montreal)

Sunday, September 16th, 2018:  Canada at Chile

Friday, November 30th, 2018:  Canada at Venezuela

Monday, December 3rd, 2018:  Canada at Brazil

Thursday, February 21st, 2018:  Chile at Canada

Sunday, February 24th, 2018:  Venezuela at Canada.

This schedule will be officially confirmed tonight after Venezuela (4-1 in Group B) plays at Chile (8:30 PM ET) and Brazil (4-1) at Columbia (1-4) playing now.  A Venezuela victory over 1-4 Chile would propel Venny to top spot (assuming I understand the tie-breaker correctly) while Chile (making same assumption on tie-breaker) would finish third.

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