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Canada (6-1) captures the FIBA U19 World Cup Championship 79-60 over Italy in a well-rounded game, led by MVP and Tournament All-Star Rowan Barrett Jr. who averaged 21.6 points per game in the tournament, shooting 46% from the field and 75% from the free throw line. The win was doubly significant and historic as it was the first basketball world Gold for Canada at any level.
Basketball fans were disappointed with the semi final not being televised here in Canada as a final four birth was the furthest any Canadian U19 team had gotten by reaching the semifinals and beating the US in a huge upset, which was an absolute thrill ride. Everyone wanted this gold medal game televised somehow, some way for all of Canada to tune in and watch history.
TSN came through for Canada; airing the Gold medal game much to the delight of basketball fans across the country.
Everyone was pumped for Canada to win Gold. They didn’t disappoint.
The Canadians road to the championship was an improbable one especially after a loss to Spain in the group stage set them up for a meeting with the United States in the semi-finals instead of a possible meeting in the finals.
The resilience and determination from Canada after that loss to Spain showed up greatly as the tournament went on. Despite losing their starting point guard Lindell Wigginton for two games, they continued to push through and were not settling for anything less than Gold.
Canada’s Abu Kigab (#14) and R.J. Barrett (#6) made the tournament All-Star 5
The Iowa State commit Wigginton would come off the bench, behind starter Jordan Henry and proceeded to drain his first shot of the game.
Early on, Italy moved the ball very well, but couldn’t make shots and Canada began to pour it on early and often and the Italians needed to keep pace.
Canada began the contest playing man on man defense. Italy’s shooting percentage was not great entering the game as they came in shooting 32.5% from the field, 25% from beyond the arc.
Canada’s Prince Oduro, came out in the first quarter all over the paint on both ends, finishing the frame with 6 points and 3 rebounds and the team was in full control up 24-10 after the first, behind Barrett Jr. & Wigginton’s seven points each. The Canadians also out rebounded the Italians 18-8 in that first quarter.
In the second, Italy’s shooting woes continued, including some poor shooting from the charity stripe.
Later in the second, Nate Darling, who plays at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, connected on an alley-oop to Grant Shephard, which was reminiscent of the same play between the two at the end of the semifinal vs. the USA. Darling then hit a three to continue his fine play and finished with 12 points in the game.
Canada, in full control, pushed lead to 38-20 after Italy called a timeout, when Barrett Jr. found Oduro for a massive dunk. Barrett Jr. always draws extra attention, which opened up opportunities for his teammates, just like in the semifinal win, as he would either find them for easy buckets, or they had open looks because of it.
The Italians defense was like butter, where Canada’s offense was like a hot knife, just piercing through without much resistance.
Oregon commit, Abu Kigab, who also was named a Tournament All-Star, hit an open three to give Canada a 51-31 lead. Kigab recorded his fourth double-double of the tournament, averaging one as well with 14.7 points and 10.6 rebounds after Canada’s seven games.
Italy cut the 20-point lead to 15 to end the first half down 51-36; David Okeke led the Italians with 10 points and 6 rebounds. But they struggled all game to get open shots as Canada closed gaps, closed out on shooters and Italy finished shooting 30% on the night.
U19 FIBA World Cup Tournament MVP R.J. Barrett
Canada’s Amidou Bamba played a great game in his 11 minutes, finishing with 6 points, 6 rebounds and caught a nice Barrett entry pass for a big slam.
Wigginton, who slashed through the paint all tournament long, muscled out every lay up attempt and despite being a smaller guard, fought through to draw contact. His consistent quickness easily caused the Italian defence to fall back on their heels, as he showed no ill effects of a lag due to injury.
In the second half, Canada kept their foot on the throttle and even though they missed their fair amount of shots, their rebounding was dominant, resulting in a plus-25 rebounding advantage over Italy. They also pulled down 23 offensive boards, which resulted in multiple second chance points.
The fourth quarter was very stagnant as Canada was outscored 12-10, the Canadians managed the clock considerably well, didn’t shoot entirely well, but with Italy doing even worse, there didn’t seem to be any panic from the team.
Canada continued to out hustle Italy even with a 20-plus point lead in the fourth, as they wanted to make sure Italy got zero momentum for a comeback. Kigab and Darling leapt out-of-bounds to save the ball on different occasions, epitomizing that hustle and effort.
Canada. World Champions. Something all Canadians could get used to saying.
Rowan Barrett Jr. – 18 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal
Abu Kigab – 12 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal
Lindell Wigginton – 11 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists
Nate Darling – 12 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists
Prince Oduro – 8 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist
Amidou Bamba – 6 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block
Danilo Djuricic – 3 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists
Grant Shephard – 6 points, 6 rebounds
Written by Mark Williamson
Photos courtesy of FIBA/Canada Basketball
Edited by Drew Ebanks