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Team Canada Struggling at FIBA Americas

Team Canada Basketball is once again struggling to live up to self-imposed high expectations. For the past week and continuing through next week, Canada has been competing in the FIBA Americas tournament, a North and South American battle of 10 teams across two continents, held in Puerto Rico.

With several NBA players present and strong programs like Argentina and Puerto Rico competing, the tournament was not expected to be a cakewalk. Still, after a disappointing inaugural season under coach Leo Rautins, the program expected an impressive finish the team could build on moving forward.

So far, that has not been the case. In the Qualifying Round, Canada impressed out of the gate, smashing Mexico 95-40 and the Virgin Islands 87-67. Canada relied on balanced scoring in both affairs, lead by Carl English but buoyed in part by breakout performances from Andy Rautins (Game 1) and Jesse Young (Game 2).

Things looked promising heading into a match-up with Uruguay, a team Canada reasonably expected to beat, but some last-minute heroics stole a victory away as Canada fell 71-69. The team shot 63% from inside the arc but relied too heavily on the three point shot, firing 22 but hitting pay dirt on only five attempts (23%). Young continued his strong play with a 20-point (7/11 shooting) performance, but the team lacked a second effective contributor and the team seemed unanimously passive at crunch time.

With a spot in the Quarterfinal Round already locked up, Canada played to that affect against Puerto Rico. They fell 90-70 in a game in which they were out-rebounded (37-29) and failed to defend the three-point shot well enough (12/26) to capitalize on their own torrid long-range shooting (12/23). Andy Rautins stepped up again, hitting 6/10 from downtown, though he contributed nothing else in his 24 minutes of play. Joel Anthony also chipped in with a 13-10 double-double, the first time in the tournament he played to expectations. Anthony is also the tournament’s second leading shot blocker with 1.8 per contest.

Despite these struggles, Canada advanced to the Quarterfinal Round. However, due to the quirkiness of the tournament, Canada began the round at 1-2. To explain, the two divisions of five lose the bottom team, creating one division of eight. Additionally, your results are carried over from the Qualifying Round, except for the game against the eliminated team (in this case, Virgin Islands). Now, Canada is tasked with facing each of the competitors from the other pool, with the top four teams from this Quarterfinal division advancing to the Semi Finals.

Entering at 1-2, Canada dropped a 67-51 contest to powerhouse Argentina, lead by the strong play (12-9) of Luis Scola. Despite winning the rebounding battle (37-31), Canada turned the ball over 23 times and failed to connect on anything from outside (2/16). Carl English and Jesse Young lead the charge again, but the defense, as has been the case all tournament, couldn’t hold up well enough to deal with Tuesday’s offensive shortcomings.

Now at 1-3 and sitting in sixth in the division of eight, Canada needs to win out to have a strong chance of making the Semi Finals. Puerto Rico (4-0) , Brazil (4-0), and Argentina (3-1) now seem strong favorites to move on, while Canada also trails Dominican Republic (2-2) and Uruguay (2-2, with the tiebreaker over Canada). Luckily, after a tough match-up tonight with Brazil (lead by Leandro Barbosa’s 18.4 points per game), Canada takes on Panama (0-4) and the Dominican Republic. Brazil and the Dominican are the tournament’s highest scoring teams, while Panama and the Dominican are the tournaments worst defensive teams, so the remaining games should certainly be exciting.

The Score has coverage of the entire tournament, and you can catch a replay of Canada v. Brazil tonight at 10pm, the live action for Canada v. Panama at 1:30pm tomorrow, and a replay of Canada v. Dominican Republic Friday night at 10pm.

Check it out, and show our boys some support!

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