Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Active, Energetic Canada Cruises Past Mexico

Pounding the offensive glass and breaking Mexican pressure with aplomb (thanks to Wayne Kondro for that word), Canada had a game-deciding 22-5 run in the second quarter led by 6'10" Levon Kendall, 6'5" Denham Brown and 6'7" Juan Mendez to come one game closer to a spot in the FIBA Americas Olympic qualifier semi-finals with a solid 97-80 victory over Mexico (1-5). After a bit of a slow start, Canada brought the same type of energy to this game as they did against Uruguay on Monday, attacking inside and cleaning up the "o" glass with an almost-absurd 19 first-half offensive rebounds. Canada also got virtually everything they wanted against the Mexican zone, making 5 of their first 11 3's, including 3 by 6'2" Jermaine Anderson (team-high 17 points on 5-8 3's, 5 assists, 3 rebounds) but had trouble finishing inside going only 2 of the first 14 inside the 3. With Canada up 1 at 25-24 and 8 1/2 minutes remaining the second quarter, Kendall got on the glass for 6 straight points (10 points during the run), Brown made a perimeter jumper and then went coast-to-coast after grabbing a defensive rebound and Mendez had a put-back dunk to break the game open late in the second quarter. Mexico had stayed in the game early by taking advantage of poor Canadian transition "d" that led to some open looks but Canada's tremendous energy and effort on the offensive glass limited any further significant spells of transition opportunities for Mexico. Canada broke the game open early in the second half on back-to-back 3's from Anderson and Carl English , capping a 10-2 run giving Canada a 57-33 lead and the route was on. Six players went for double figures for Canada including Anderson, Kendall (14 points/11 rebounds), Brown (11 points/11 rebounds), Mendez (15 points/9 rebounds), English (12 points) and 6'5" Olu Famutimi (11 points/5 rebounds). Canada was able to rest many of their big guns for much of the second half, including the rapidly-improving Anderson - maligned by some (including me) as lacking in pure point guard skills but who has proven to arguably Canada's most important and irreplaceable player in the rotation. 6'10" Samuel Dalembert played only 13 minutes with 8 rebounds and super sub 6'5" Dave Thomas also got a chance to chill. Canada should be fresh for Puerto Rico, an 8:30 PM Eastern time start tomorrow as the Canadians are one win away from a semi-final appearance. EARLY TIE-BREAKING SCENARIOS: Assuming Brazil wins one of its remaining two games (against Argentina tonight and/or Uruguay tomorrow), Brazil will clinch third place. By virtue of Canada's victory today, Canada now owns any head-to-head tie breakers with Venezuela and Mexico. If Puerto Rico defeats Venezuela later today and Brazil wins either of their two games, tomorrow's Canada vs. Puerto Rico matchup is for the fourth and final spot in the semi-finals.

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