Canada's RJ Barrett looks to shoot past China's Zijie Shen during the first half of FIBA Men's Olympic Qualifying basketball action at Memorial Arena in Victoria, B.C., on Wednesday, June 30, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Canada earns berth in semis at Olympic qualifying event with win over China

Canada earns berth in semis at Olympic qualifying event with win over China

VICTORIA —

Canada earned a spot in the semifinals of a last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament with a dominant 109-79 win over China Wednesday.

It was Canada’s second consecutive win, following Tuesday’s 97-91 victory over Greece in the opening game of the must-win tournament at Victoria’s Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.

Canada was paced again by their young NBA stars Andrew Wiggins with 20 points, and RJ Barrett with 16 points.

“It was a hard fought game,” said Wiggins at a post-game news conference. “They threw a lot of different defences at us. Every game we’re getting better. Hopefully we can keep it going.”

Canada’s Louguentz Dort, who chipped in with 11 points, said the team moved the ball well on offence and controlled most rebounds on defence.

“We didn’t let China get second chances,” he said.

Canada’s coach Nick Nurse, who also coaches the NBA’s Toronto Raptors, said China changed its defensive systems frequently, switching from zone, to man-to-man and full court throughout the game.

The Canadian squad, playing together as a team for the second time, is getting early exposure to the challenges of international basketball, he said.

“In the two games, we have seen quite a bit,” said Nurse.

China’s coach Du Feng said his team started well in its first tournament contest, but faded in the fourth quarter against the Canadians.

“This is the younger generation of Team China,” he said. “For the first game for this tournament, generally, this is a good game.”

Eight NBA players are on the roster, widely considered the most talented Canadian men’s basketball team in history for this week’s tournament on home court.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker (New Orleans), Trey Lyles (San Antonio), Mychal Mulder (Golden State), Dwight Powell (Dallas), captain Cory Joseph (Detroit), Wiggins (Golden State) and Barrett (New York) and Dort (Oklahoma City) comprise the NBA players.

The 12-man roster is rounded out by Trae Bell-Haynes, Anthony Bennett, Aaron Doornekamp and Andrew Nicholson.

Canada is ranked No. 21 in the world.

Each team plays the other teams in its group once, and the top two teams in each group will advance to Saturday’s semifinals.

Uruguay, Czech Republic and Turkey are in Group B.

The two semifinal winners will meet Sunday, with the winner clinching a spot in Tokyo.

In addition to Canada, there are three other last-chance tournaments happening this week to determine final spots, in Croatia, Lithuania and Serbia.

The Canadian women’s team, ranked fourth, booked its third consecutive Olympic berth last February.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 30, 2021.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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