Canada steamrolls China to reach Olympic qualifier semis

Canada steamrolls China to reach Olympic qualifier semis


Consider this stage one, successfully completed.

Canada guaranteed itself a spot in the semifinals of this last-chance Olympic qualifier in Victoria, B.C. with a convincing 109-79 win over China.

With two wins in the group stage, Canada now has two full days to get ready for Saturday’s semi-final against the second-best record from the other group in the tournament which features Turkey, Czech Republic and Uruguay.

China came out pushing the pace as expected, and a variety of zone defences that initially slowed Canada down kept the game close through the first quarter before the hosts started pulling away.

Andrew Wiggins led the way again for Canada with 20 points, but the offence was much more spread out in this second outing than it had been in the first when Wiggins, RJ Barrett and Nickeil Alexander-Walker carried the load.

Barrett followed up with another 16 points but Canada also got 14 from Andrew Nicholson, 12 from Dwight Powell and 11 from Trey Lyles and Luguentz Dort.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the win was the job Canada did on the boards out-rebounding China 55-37 and an impressive 20-10 on the offensive boards.

If there is an area of concern it is the size disadvantage Canada has against every other team in this six-team tournament. But what they lack in size, Canada is making up in effort and total team effort as coach Nick Nurse has all his players hitting the boards hard in an effort to offset that size disadvantage.

Canada’s bigs, the guys you would expect to pile up the rebounds in Powell, Nicholson and Lyles, did combine for 23 of those 55 rebounds but Canada also got eight from Alexander-Walker, who is a point guard on this team.

Canada took a 13-point lead into the half. Offensively they were moving the ball like that championship Raptors team of a couple of years ago and it led to a lot of open looks from behind the three-point line.

In the half, the Canadian side took full advantage of all those looks, draining 11 of those in the half.

Powell, the 6-foot-9 Toronto native, has what some might consider the unenviable task of taking on opposing centres in this tournament, often giving up four or five inches and size as Canada comes in smaller than most of the teams they will face.

Wednesday night against China he was up against 6-foot-11 centre Qi Zhou for most of the night and Powell more than held his own on the boards, pulling down nine total and five on the offensive end while contributing with those 12 points.

It was also a big night for Mississauga native Nicholson. The 31-year-old has spent the past four years playing professionally in China against a lot of the same guys Canada was facing Wednesday.

Nicholson, who has scored wherever he plays, proved that again last night with 14 points and seven rebounds in just 14 minutes.

Nicholson does not start for Canada but he’s instant offence off the bench for Nurse and will be heard from again.

Nurse talked a lot about growing together through that first win against Greece and there was more growth Wednesday night. He’ll now have the option of a few practices to further lock in his team before they enter the semifinal round on Saturday.

Only the winning team from this tournament earns an Olympic berth.

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Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2021


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