Saturday, 29 August 2009

Michael Grange's Globe & Mail Article on Canada/U.S. Virgin Islands

Canada Cruises Again

For the second successive game, Canada used a superior defensive effort to cruise to an easy win at the FIBA Tournament of the Americas in Puerto Rico.

Canada scored a comfortable 87-67 win over the U.S. Virgin Islands yesterday to improve to 2-0 in Group B. The top four teams in the 10-team championship advance to the world championships in Turkey next summer.

On the heels of their blowout over Mexico - the 40 points the Canadians allowed was a record low for the event - Canada jumped out to an early double-digit lead by holding its opponents to just 13 first-quarter points.

And while the Canadians were on fire offensively against Mexico, yesterday they had some droughts. However, Canada's defensive game - a mix of man, full-court pressure and a 2-3 zone - kept them in it. Canada was held scoreless for nearly four minutes early in the second quarter, yet lost no ground. When Jermaine Anderson sparked an 11-2 run to finish the first half with a four-point play, the game was virtually decided as Canada led 44-26 heading into the half.

Just as important, the large winning margin allowed head coach Leo Rautins to spread his minutes around. No starter played more than 23 minutes, while 11 players recorded 11 minutes or more, a significant factor in an event where Canada will have to play eight games in nine days.

Jesse Young of Peterborough, Ont., led Canada with 14 points and added seven rebounds. Levon Kendall of Vancouver had eight points and eight rebounds while all 11 players who played had at least four points.

"There's a lot of things that have to happen for a team to be successful and you have to have players willing to sacrifice," Rautins said of Young.

"Tonight was a typical Jesse performance. He goes out, rebounds, makes plays, scores. Whatever we need done out there, he gets it done."

Canada held the Virgin Islands to 38-per-cent shooting and just 30 per cent from the three-point line while winning the rebounding battle 41-37. Canada shot 48 per cent from the floor and 7-of-22 from the three-point line, while taking full advantage of their 28 trips to the foul line by knocking down 26 of them. Canada also made 14 steals.

"When you blow someone out by 55, it almost sometimes hurts you," said Young, who is part of Canada's second rotation.

"But for us to come out [yesterday] and have the same determination right from the get-go and get a big lead in the first half, it's great to see."

Rautins added: "Just like Mexico, the Virgin Islands played the late game the night before and it was important to get on them right away and pretty much dictate how the game was going to be played."

This weekend Canada will face a fuller test as they meet Uruguay today (The Score, 4 p.m.) and host Puerto Rico tomorrow (The Score, 9 p.m.).

"The next two days will define our hopes more clearly," said Maurizio Gherardini, the Toronto Raptors' executive who is the managing director of the men's team. "On paper we should have a tougher time with Puerto Rico than Uruguay. Uruguay looks like our team in terms of size, options and styles of play. Puerto Rico is more up-and-down and difficult for us to match up with."

Canada is assured a place in the next round, in which four of the five teams in each group advance to a quarter-final round and play the four teams that qualify from the other group.

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