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Canada Basketball

Canada sweeps Bahamas to open FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Americas Qualifiers

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (November 29, 2021) -- Canada's Senior Men’s National Team picked up a 113-77 victory over the Bahamas in the Dominican Republic on Monday to go 2-0 in the first window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Americas Qualifiers. This was Canada’s second victory in as many days against the Bahamas, following a 115-73 win on Sunday.

“Any time you play a team like that, an aggressive team like the Bahamas, in a back-to-back situation, [you know they will compete],” Team Canada head coach Nate Bjorkgren said. “We had a very thorough film session, detailed walkthrough this morning, that our guys did a very good job of executing when it came to game time. There were some runs in that game, some highs and lows, but overall, for the most part of that game, our guys were very, very well connected again. That’s been two days in a row that they’ve shown that unselfish play and the connectivity on the defensive end.”

For the second straight game, the Canadians were led by Kyle Wiltjer, who scored a game-high 25 points. Wiltjer made 8-of-15 field goal attempts, including 4-for-6 attempts from three. Kassius Robertson added 15 points and Aaron Best had 10 for Canada, while Phil Scrubb added 13 points and finished perfect from the floor, making all five of his field goal attempts.

“I think we have a really good group of guys and good coaches that kept us focused after the first game,” Scrubb said. “I think we learned a lot [from watching] film between the first and second games and I think we had a really good attitude.”

Canada also had success from long-range again on Monday, making 17-of-34 attempts from deep, compared to just eight made threes for the Bahamas in the game.

“We have a lot of good shooters,” Scrubb said. “We really shared the ball and played unselfishly and I think we just took the shots that we were given. We made a high percentage of shots so I think for us those are really great shots.”

Much like their victory on Sunday, Canada continued to build on the lead as the game went on, leading by eight after the opening quarter, by 12 at the half, and then doubling that to 24 points heading into the fourth.

“We knew they were going to come out and play tough,” Scrubb said. “They gave us a good run, in the first half, especially. I think we responded really well and it was a good team effort.”

After the Bahamas scored the first two points of the second quarter to trim Canada’s lead to six, Canada went on an 11-0 run to extend the lead to 17 on a layup from Wiltjer with 7:11 remaining in the half. After a layup from Domnick Bridgewater brought the Bahamas within 10, Robertson scored on a jumper in the final seconds of the half to give Canada the 12-point advantage, 46-58 at the break.

Canada shot 56 percent in the first half, while holding the Bahamas to 44 percent shooting. Team Canada also made 9-of-14 three-point attempts, but the Bahamas were quick to take advantage of Canada’s seven turnovers, outscoring Canada 16-7 on fast break points.

Team defence was the topic of discussion for Canada’s halftime break and it paid off in the second half.

“We felt that in the first half that the Bahamas were getting some open looks and we needed to challenge their shots better, make it more difficult for them,” Bjorkgren said. “In the first half, there were some trips where we weren’t quite as organized as we would have liked to have been on the offensive end but coming out of halftime these guys did a great job of communicating that with each other, and we got the shots that we wanted, the paint touches and the kick outs. We got shots within the offence. I thought that was an important part going from the first half to the second."

In the final frame, Canada continued to push the lead. A rim-shaking dunk from Bennett put Canada ahead by 29 early in the fourth. A three from Wiltjer made it 30 points. From there, Canada maintained their lead and picked up their second big win in as many days as Bjorkgren once again was able to give his full roster an extended run.

Canada will leave the Dominican Republic having taken care of business in the first of six qualifying windows for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023. Though there will always be things to improve on, Bjorkgren and the rest of the coaching staff are happy with the effort and commitment they saw from the players representing Canada in these two games.

“Focus is a really big part of this team,” coach Nate Bjorkgren said. “In the week that we spent together, they were very focused right where they stepped foot off the plane from all of the countries where they flew in from.

“I also wanted to say also, thank you to the Dominican Republic for hosting us, and our hotel for taking care of us here in their facilities, our host country was great.”

Next up for Canada will be the second window of qualifiers which will be held in February 2022.