Canada Basketball Closes WC Qualifiers With Another Win

Canada's SMNT takes care of business in the 12th and final WC Qualifier

Canada improved to 11-1 in World Cup Qualifiers after defeating Venezuela 74-57.

For the 12th and final Qualifier game, there was certainly a little something extra in the air at the Poliedro de Caracas arena. If you recall, in the previous matchup between Canada and Venezuela back in November, there were some travel/visa issues for the Venezuelan nation team. The start time of the game was pushed back in order to accommodate the Venezuelan team, who had arrived in Edmonton just hours before the game was scheduled. If you want to learn more about what went down with the travel/visa issues, Matty Ireland (go follow him on Twitter!), the host of the Canada Hoops podcast, sat down with Canada Basketball CEO Michael Bartlett to get the details (visa topic starts at 9:58).

I don’t fault Venezuelan Basketball fans for being upset for what had happened in November and I fully expected a hostile crowd for this game. Credit to Coach Bjorkgren, the rest of the coaching staff and the Canadian players for showing up and grinding out a win.

It certainly wasn’t a high-octane offensive explosion on Feb 26th. Keep in mind, FIBA games are 8 minutes shorter than NBA games, but even with that consideration, this was still a low-scoring bout between the two nations. Canada’s defense held Venezuela to just 28% FG% and 17.40% from 3 while causing Venezuela to turn it over 23 times. It would have been a perfect defensive performance had Canada done better rebounding the ball. The Venezuelans had 23(!) offensive rebounds in this game and it was all these extra possessions that kept Venezuela attached throughout the game.

Offensively, Canada was led by the duo of Phil Scrubb and Kalif Young, who each scored 14 points. The duo worked together on the highlight of the game, capping of the night with a thundering Young poster dunk off the pick and roll.

Aside from them, Trae Bell-Haynes (12 points, 7 assists, game high +26 and player of the game) and newcomer Jackson Rowe (12 points, 2 steals, 2 blocks) picked up the slack as well on offense. Shameless plug: read Oren Weisfeld’s piece on some of the Winter Core standouts, as well as my deep dives into Kalif Young and Thomas Kennedy if you want to learn more of some of these Canadians.

Canada found success this game running some “Horns” sets on offense. It was quite effective keeping Canada afloat offensively to end the 1st half, and Canada went back to it in the 4th quarter as well.

When FIBA releases the full game stream on YouTube, I’ll have the clips available, but Canada did specifically run some “Horns Flare” for Phil Scrubb, which coincidently, Samson Folk highlighted in his video yesterday at Yahoo Sports Canada. Scrubb was in Siakam’s position when Canada ran it against Venezuela, hoping to free him up for an open 3 or get him attacking downhill.

Now that the Qualifier stage is completed, all eyes turn to April 29th, 2023, the date of the World Cup Draw. We already know Canada will be playing in Indonesia to kick off the World Cup, but Canada’s first few opponents will be finalized during the draw.

Overall, I have to say the players (especially Phill and Thomas Scrubb), coaches and organization deserve some much needed appreciation for what they have accomplished. These things are never a forgone conclusion (see Argentina missing the World Cup) and these types of performances across qualification windows are much needed to develop the winning culture of a basketball federation. Next stop, Jakarta, Indonesia!

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