Canada's Thomas Scrubb drives to the hoop past an opponentJason Franson/The Canadian Press
Jason Franson/The Canadian Press

World Cup-bound Canada stays undefeated with another one-sided win

Article updated on November 13th, 2022

Team Canada is now a perfect 10-for-10 in their FIBA Basketball World Cup qualifying campaign.

The Canadians (10-0) clinched a World Cup spot with a win over Venezuela on Thursday. Then on Sunday, they put on a show for the fans in Edmonton, coasting to a 112-71 victory over Panama (2-8).

NBA players were unavailable in this window, which gave other players a chance to audition for World Cup spots. Aaron Best led all scorers with 22 points off the bench, while six others (Trae Bell-Haynes, Jahvon Henry-Blair, Conor Morgan, Melvin Ejim, Kassius Robertson and Phil Scrubb) hit double digits in scoring.

READ: Hoop Dreams: Canada’s road to the 2023 FIBA World Cup

It was a relatively even first quarter, though the home side held a nine-point lead. But Canada blew it wide open in the second quarter, on the strength of a 17-0 run. Just like against Venezuela, Canada’s three-point shooting (19-for-40, 47.5%) put them in very good stead.

An emphatic slam dunk by Thomas Kennedy with about 90 seconds left gave the home crowd one final moment of excitement.

With two games left in the FIBA Americas qualifiers, Canada is the only undefeated team left. Away games in Argentina and Venezuela in February will close out the qualifiers. The tournament itself runs in August and September 2023.

Game 3 (Nov. 10): Canada 94, Venezuela 56

Team Canada got the job done on home court Thursday, booking their place in the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

With a 94-56 win over Venezuela at the Edmonton Expo Centre, Canada remained the only undefeated team in the FIBA Americas zone. The Canadians are 9-0 and sit first in Group E with three games left in the World Cup qualifying process.

The team’s depth was on full display with its NBA players unavailable during this qualifying window. The starting quintet of Kalif Young, Melvin Ejim, Kenny Chery, Phil Scrubb and Thomas Scrubb went on a 7-0 run to start, a portent of things to come.

The Venezuelan team was hampered by travel issues, and Canada took advantage by jumping out to a 25-10 lead after the first quarter. The second quarter was more evenly played, with the score 46-31 heading into halftime.

But Canada began to pull away in the third quarter, fuelled by 45% shooting from three-point range. Buoyed by the home crowd, the Canadians never trailed throughout the game, and pushed their lead as high as 40 points.

Kassius Robertson led all scorers with 16 points, while Owen Klassen posted a double double (11 points, 10 rebounds). The team is back in action in Edmonton on Sunday against Panama.

Game 2 (Aug. 29): Canada 106, Panama 50

Canada’s 106-50 victory in Panama City kept the team undefeated through eight games in the FIBA Americas qualification tournament. They sit in first place in Group E with four games left to go. The top three teams in the group are guaranteed a World Cup berth.

Canada’s starting five of Melvin Ejim, Kevin Pangos, Kelly Olynyk, Dwight Powell and Phil Scrubb came out on fire against Panama (2-6). Head coach Nick Nurse’s squad went on a remarkable 16-0 run to start the game, and were up 33-7 after the first quarter.

The visitors kept their foot on the gas, building a 64-25 lead by halftime. The second half was predominantly an opportunity for Canada to showcase its impressive depth.

Even without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Cory Joseph or Nickeil Alexander-Walker making the trip, Canada had five players hit double digits in scoring. Olynyk led all scorers with 18 points, plus six rebounds and five assists. Pangos added 17 while Ejim and Zach Edey had 15 apiece.

Game 1 (Aug. 25): Canada 99, Argentina 87

In front of a raucous home crowd in Victoria, Team Canada defeated Argentina in FIBA Basketball World Cup qualifying.

It was Canada’s first of six games in the second round of the FIBA Americas qualification tournament for next summer’s World Cup. Building on a perfect 6-0 record in the first round, Canada sits first in Group E. The top three teams in the six-team group are guaranteed spots in the 2023 World Cup.

Against Argentina, head coach Nick Nurse rolled out a starting five of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Melvin Ejim, Dwight Powell and Kelly Olynyk. It was a fast-paced, back-and-forth start. But Canada held firm with strong defence and headed into halftime with a 52-39 lead.

The home side’s lead ballooned to as much as 23 after the break. But Argentina clawed it back to a 15-point gap by the end of the third quarter. To make things trickier, Alexander-Walker fouled out with a few minutes to play in the third quarter.

The South Americans kept fighting, jangling some nerves in the fourth quarter. But with about six minutes left, an emphatic shot block by Gilgeous-Alexander on Nicolas Laprovittola symbolized the rugged defence that helped lift Canada to victory.

Gilgeous-Alexander finished as Canada’s top scorer with 23 points, going 8-for-19 from the field and 3-for-6 on three-pointers. Olynyk chipped in with 21 points, 11 of which were from the free throw line.