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Canada basketball
Holly MacKenzie

Canada defeats Argentina 99-87 behind 23-point effort from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

VICTORIA, British Columbia (August 25, 2022) -- The Canadian Senior Men’s National Team defeated Argentina 99-87 on Thursday in Victoria, British Columbia to open play in the Second Round of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Americas Qualifiers. The win moves Canada to 7-0 as they remain the lone undefeated team in the Americas Qualifiers.

Canada was led by a 23-point performance from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and 21 points from Kelly Olynyk. Gilgeous-Alexander also added eight assists while Olynyk added seven rebounds. Dwight Powell also finished with 12 points and seven rebounds for. Argentina was led by a game-high 30-point performance from Nicolas Laprovittola, 17 points and eight rebounds from Facundo Campazzo and 16 points from Gabriel Deck. Carflos Delfino added 10 points in the loss.

After playing the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Victoria a year ago, without fans able to be present, this time the stands were full. Gilgeous-Alexander voiced his appreciation for all of the support shown to him and his teammates at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.

“Home court advantage,” he said of the team’s recent success at home. “it’s always easy to play with the crowd behind you. You know people have your back, supporting you, getting you through the tough times in the games.”

Canada shot 50 percent in the win and used a stellar defensive effort to hold Argentina to 46 percent shooting after a close first quarter where both teams scored above 60 percent from the floor. It was a solid all-around team effort as Canada's reserves scored 30 points in the win compared to just 15 points scored by Argentina’s bench.

After a close first few minutes, Argentina held a one-point lead until Powell scored on a layup to put Canada back in front, 16-15, with 3:24 remaining in the quarter. Canada never trailed in the game again. Gilgeous-Alexander found Kevin Pangos for a three-pointer with nine seconds remaining in the opening quarter to give Canada the seven point lead after the opening 10 minutes.

Canada opened the second quarter with a steal from Pangos leading to free throws for Powell. After Powell made both free throws, Canada led by nine. The Canadians came out ready to defend in the second quarter and Gilgeous-Alexander led the way as he blocked a jump shot from Laprovittola, setting the tone. After a layup from Powell, Canada led by 11 until a three-pointer from Kassius Robertson extended the advantage to 14 points, forcing Argentina into a timeout with 3:22 remaining.

Laprovittola did his best to cut into Canada’s lead as he scored 21 points in the first half, but free throws from Olynyk to close the half kept Canada in front by 13.

Canada’s defensive effort held Argentina to just 18 second quarter points as they turned a seven-point lead into a 13-point advantage at the half.

“We knew it was going to be like that,” Gilgeous-Alexander said of the intense first half. “We just tried to be the aggressors tonight. I  think that’s one of our strengths. When we’re the aggressors, good things usually happen for us.”

Canada shot 55 percent in the first half compared to 46 percent shooting for Argentina. While Laprovittola led all scorers with 21 points in the half, Olynyk had 11 and Gilgeous-Alexander 10 to lead Canada.

Gilgeous-Alexander wasted no time getting Canada on the board in the second half, scoring on a layup to extend Canada’s lead to 15. After an offensive rebound and putback from Olynyk, Canada led by 17 until Gabriel Deck connected on a three to get Argentina on the board in the third. A three from Alexander-Walker extended Canada’s lead to 19 points and then Gilgeous-Alexander made it a 22-point advantage with a three of his own as Argentina called a timeout to talk things over.

Canada continued to roll in the third with Gilgeous-Alexander assisting on another three for Alexander-Walker, this one extending Canada’s lead to 71-48 with 6:09 remaining in the third. Alexander-Walker fouled out late in the third, but Canada had no shortage of players able to step up in his absence as they went into the fourth leading by 15, 83-68.

In the fourth quarter it was all about defence. Similar to the second quarter when Canada came out with lockdown defence to build a lead and pull away, the Canadians stepped things up in the final frame as they held off each of Argentina’s comeback attempts to claim the victory.

“We know these games are important,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “Every night we try to go in there and execute, take care of our game plan, play the right way and hopefully end up on the right side of things.”

Up next for Canada is a meeting with Panama on Monday, Aug. 29 in Panama City at 8 p.m. ET, live on Sportsnet.