The Development Men’s National Team (DMNT) continued its strong play in China with a close 75-73 victory over the United States. The team opened the nine-game Four Nations’ International Invitational Tournament on Saturday with a hard-fought 70-66 win over the host nation.
It is always special when Team Canada faces Team USA in international competition and this occasion proved to be no different. Toronto, Ont. native Dwight Powell began the game with energy and quickly put up 8 points in the opening frame. Daniel Mullings brought the Canadian bench and the lively crowd to its feet with a rim-rattling put-back dunk as Canada built a 44-35 advantage at the midway point of the game.
The DMNT continued to play well in the third quarter and pushed the lead to 58-48 with strong play at both ends of the court. Team USA showed character and resolve in making a late run to challenge the Canadians and knotted the game at 73 to set the stage for some late-gamer heroics from the Red and White. With 0.05 seconds left in the game, a determined Kyle Wiltjer was fouled and sent to the line. He calmly made both free throws to earn Canada the win.
Wiltjer led the Canadians with 17 points, including a perfect 5-for-5 performance from the line. Powell finished the game with 16 point and added four rebounds. When asked about playing their North American rivals, Wiltjer said, "it was a great team effort tonight. For me, it is always fun to play against the USA since I live there. The guards did a good job of making good passes down the stretch and finding me when I was open. We got some good calls down the stretch which also helped.”
He believes the Canadians put together a strong effort, but sees the opportunity for growth. “The good thing about this game is that we are getting better, but there is still room for improvement.” Head coach Jay Triano added that “we were fortunate to hang on and pull out the win. We can't let teams come back after being up by nine. We haven't been shooting the ball well, but are finding ways to gut it out."
The DMNT faces Latvia next to close out the portion of the tournament taking place in Kaixian. On Tuesday, the teams will have a travel day to make their way to Huaihua where the four squads of student athletes will once again face one another in a stretch of three games in three days beginning on Wednesday. Canada and the United States will renew their rivalry on Thursday.