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Canada basketball
Holly MacKenzie

Canada defeats Dominican Republic 95-75 behind Gilgeous-Alexander's 32 points

HAMILTON, ONT. (July 1, 2022) - The Canadian Senior Men’s National Team defeated the Dominican Republic 95-75 in the FIBA Basketball World Cup Americas Qualifiers in Hamilton, Ontario on Friday to move to a perfect 5-0 in the first round of qualifying.

The Canadians put together a dominant effort in front of a packed crowd at the First Ontario Centre as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored a game-high 32 points in his Senior Men’s National Team debut. From the opening tip, where he scored the first points of the game on a dunk, to his final seconds on the floor, Gilgeous-Alexander was thrilled to represent Canada.

“I surprised myself a little bit, I never had a left-handed dunk in my career,” he said of the opening possession of the game. “That was a good way to start, a good way to start for sure.”

Gilgeous-Alexander scored 20 of his 32 in the second half and 16 in a decisive third quarter where Canada outscored Dominican Republic 30-12 to turn a 10-point halftime lead into a 28-point lead after three.

Though the Dominican Republic would win the final quarter 27-19, the game was never in doubt in the fourth as all 12 members of Canada’s roster logged playing time and the Dominican Republic never got within single digits in the quarter.

Gilgeous-Alexander shot 11-for-22 from the floor, including 5-for-11 from beyond the arc, while adding five rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocked shots.. Nickeil Alexander-Walker finished with 17 points, while Kelly Olynyk had a 17-point, 11-rebound double-double, while also finishing with a team-high six assists.

“It’s a privilege to play with a guy like that,” Olynyk said of Gilgeous-Alexander. “We’ve had a lot of [talent] coming through this program right now. He’s not alone. It's fun to play with him, fun to watch, fun to witness. I think everybody here got a treat tonight.”

The Dominican Republic was led by 14-point effort from Adonys Henriquez and 12 points from Victor Liz in the loss.

This victory comes after the team has spent the past week together in training camp, getting familiar with one another and preparing for a two-game slate this weekend.

“We’re really building in general,” Team Canada head coach Nick Nurse said. “I think, for me, we'll get to play another game and we’ll get to focus on that in a minute, but for me, this week, getting to bring everyone together, it felt like we’ve taken another step forward in building.

“We had a lot of players and  former players, future players and coaches in the building,” Nurse continued. “All kinds of people and that coming together feels like we took a step in building. You’ve got to go out and perform in front of a good team and it puts all of that hard work and all of those days of prep to the test. We should know we prepared well and it helped us play well and we’ll continue to do that moving forward.”

Canada led for all but 1:43 seconds and won three of four quarters in the game. The turning point came with Canada holding a one-point lead, 37-36 with 1:46 remaining in the first half. The Canadians closed the half on a 9-0 run, capped by a tip-in from Kyle Alexander to extend the advantage to 10 at the break.

The third quarter was all Canada as Gilgeous-Alexander all but took over the game. With Canada leading 55-44 at the 5:02 mark of the third quarter, Gilgeous-Alexander blocked a shot on one end and then scored on a pull-up jumper on the other. He followed that up by stepping in to take a charge on the defensive end to force a Dominican Republic turnover. Gilgeous-Alexander then scored on a layup, made some free throws and then hit a trio of three-pointers to break the game open as Canada’s lead swelled to 76-48 at the end of three quarters.

“He changes the game, like you saw in the third quarter,” Olynyk said. “He just changed the game for us.”

Canada shot 44 percent from the floor, including 39 percent from beyond the arc, connecting on 14-of-36 attempts from three.

When the final buzzer sounded, Canada received a standing ovation from the Hamilton crowd. Getting to play in his hometown was certainly a moment that Gilgeous-Alexander won’t forget.

“It was so fun, just knowing that all the people that have seen me grow from when I was in high school were there to see me play today,” he said. “It’s something I can't describe. It was super fun. I knew this day was coming and it went just as I wanted it to.”

Up next for Canada is a meeting against the U.S. Virgin Islands on Monday, July 4 at 5 p.m. ET.