Photo courtesy Canada Basketball
Canada 71, U.S. Virgin Islands 83 | Box Score
The FIBA Americup, formerly known as the FIBA Americas tournament, is starting to get on Canada’s nerves a little bit. The last time Canada was in this tournament, they squandered an incredible performance in group stage play with a knock-out stage loss to Venezuela, ultimately costing themselves a spot in the 2016 Olympics. This time around, the tournament is fairly meaningless in terms of qualification for the next World Cup and Olympic cycle, but it’s started no less frustrating.
Canada dropped a tournament-opening decision to U.S. Virgin Islands on Sunday night, turning in a disastrous third quarter they couldn’t recover from. After they built a small hole early, they managed to play the Islands close through most of the second but took a five-point deficit into the half thanks to some woeful shooting. Things unraveled from there, with Canada’s defense giving way to a 28-point third quarter for the rather anonymous opposition. Canada could muster little in the way of a comeback attempt from there, losing 83-71 and getting their tournament off to an inauspicious start.
Olivier Hanlan led Canada with 10 points on 3-of-9 shooting, which says a fair amount about Canada’s offensive performance overall. Head coach Roy Rana used all 12 of his players in search of a spark, and while 11 of them scored, Junior Cadougan was the only player to take more than two field-goal attempts and still shoot 50 percent (he was 2-of-3). Brady Heslip, pegged as the team’s offensive fulcrum, had a tough night with a 2-of-11 mark from the field, including 1-of-7 on threes, and played to a minus-11 in his 27 minutes. Xavier Rathan-Mayes was really the only moderate bright spot – despite shooting 2-of-10 himself -0 posting a 5-10-6 line and leading the team in both rebounding and assists.
“We didn’t play well and we have to do a better job of coming out with a lot of energy,” Rathan-Mayes said. “We came out sluggish and didn’t execute the way we should have. We just have to go back and regroup, come back and win two.”
All told, the Canadians shot 31.6 percent from the floor and 7-of-32 on threes and were out-rebounded slightly thanks to the vast difference in defensive rebounding opportunities (the Virgin Islands shot 43.1 percent).
They’ll have to shake this off very quickly in the expedited Americup format. Canada plays host Argentina late today and Venezuela tomorrow, and that could be it – only Argentina and one other team will make it on from this pool, so there’s a real urgency to go 2-0 from here. Canada dropped what was their most likely win
“Tough first game for us at the AmeriCup. We look forward to building this group and the valuable international experience it’s providing our team,” Rana said.
It’s true that the tournament will be valuable experience regardless of finish, considering a chunk of this roster will be playing together when World Cup qualifying games begin in November. That also increases the value of extending the tournament and getting a couple of elimination games under their belts, too.