Written by Jas Grewal for On Point Basketball
Conceding to defeat doesn’t seem to fit the bill for the red and white.
A sensation akin to déjà vu was felt at the Mattamy Athletic Centre on Friday evening as the Canadians put their hard hats on and ousted the United States in a thrilling, come from behind overtime victory, 111-108, forging a similar, undefeated path that their lady counterparts cultivated this past Monday.
The win ensures the event hosts their first ever medal in Pan Am basketball competition, and affording them an opportunity to clasp the gold in tomorrow’s matinee against Brazil.
With Canada trailing the United States 80-74 at the end of three quarters, it was Jamal Murray who wheeled off nine straight points in the first few minutes of the fourth, helping the Canucks reclaim a seemingly distant lead.
The soon to be Kentucky Wildcat (NCAA), who poured in 22 points (all in the fourth quarter and overtime) including a string of timely three point baskets, was outstanding in extra time as well.
Murray seems to have a firm awareness of when to take over games, something he attributes to his relationship with his father, Roger Murray.
“My dad and I, we battle in everything,” said the 6’5” guard after leading Canada to victory and their first ever gold medal game in Pan Am competition. ”Whether it’s the first one to get to the car or first one to make the basket, just anything like that. We’re very competitive and we always want those moments to rub it in to each other. So I guess that’s where I get it from, my dad. He’s very confident in what he does.”
“A lot of fun,” said Murray when asked how he felt as a throng of Canadian fans inside of Mattamy Athletic Centre roared in support throughout this contest.
“Being here with all these fans and [our] staff behind us. [Just] representing our country, it’s an amazing feeling,” said Murray. ”You’ve gotta go through it to believe it.”
Andrew Nicholson was the mainstay for the Canadians on the offensive end. The Mississauga native was almost impossible to guard throughout the entire game and made his presence felt against a thin but long United States frontline.
The 6’9” Nicholson finished with 31 points and 10 rebounds in the win, using a series of post moves and perimeter shots throughout his tyrannical reign. He was also quick to praise the young Murray after the thrilling overtime victory.
“He played phenomenal down the stretch. He [was] a big boost for us and he’s going to be an outstanding player,” said Nicholson. “He’s getting better everyday.”
At times, Canada showed lapses on both ends of the floor against the United States, but Nicholson was outstanding on the offensive end by keeping the red and white within striking distance anytime they trailed.
“I just go out there and execute,” added the 6’9” forward. “My teammates got me the ball in the right positions and they trusted me and I just made plays.”
The idea is that the men’s squad will follow suit with the SWNT and seize the gilded first place medal, provided Brazil doesn’t upset the hometown Canadians on Saturday afternoon.
“It means a lot,” said coach Jay Triano in response to what it means to win on Canadian soil. “These kids want to represent Canada, they know that they might not be the A-list or NBA players, in all cases, but when they put that jersey on there’s a lot of pride.”
“I asked them this morning at shoot around, I said ‘stand up in your locker and turn around and look at the names,” added Triano. “In everybody’s locker we’ve got their number, and we’ve got a list of players that wore that number for Canada. And they looked at the list of names, and there were some pretty good names up there. None of them has won a medal for Canada at the Pan Am Games, I said ‘let’s be the first ones.”
“They can rest their hat on that, they’ve worked extremely hard, [and] I’m real proud of those kids.”
Canada will play Brazil Saturday at 4:30pm EST for gold in the Pan Am Games basketball championship game.
Game Notes: Despite being in foul trouble throughout much of the game, Anthony Bennett finished with an impressive 18 points to complement his 14-rebound night, including a clutch three point basket in overtime to help Canada fend off the U.S.
Canada outrebounded the U.S 50-29, including 17 offensive rebounds
Canada also shot 50% in the win, while the United States shot a respectable 48% from the field.
Both clubs connected on 13 threes in the contest.
Canada outscored the U.S. 54-36 in the paint.
Bobby Brown finished the night with 25 points and 7 assists for the U.S., while Anthony Randolph added 21 points.
Written by Jas Grewal
Photo courtesy Reel Motion Imaging
Edited by Drew Ebanks