Daniel Mullings and Steve Nash
Written by Jas Grewal for On Point Basketball
After stringing together a pair of wins over Argentina and the Dominican Republic in the Pan Am Games preliminaries, the Canadian men’s club steamrolled through Mexico with a convincing 96-76 win on Thursday evening, giving the red and white a perfect 3-0 record, and inching them that much closer to their eventual goal: the gold medal.
Brady Heslip – who led the Canucks in scoring once again with 20 points, including 4-7 from deep – continues to impress in the Pan Am Games.
It’s evident how conducive his perimeter shooting has been to Canada’s overall success thus far.
“I always like to have shooters,” said Triano after the Canadians slotted themselves into the semifinals after beating Mexico. “I think the ability to shoot the basketball [is important]. Argentina last night, those point guards shot the ball [well] and kept them in the game. Tonight, Mexico hung around because of their ability to shoot the basketball from the three-point line.”
“So the more shooters we can have in this country the better,” said Triano.
Despite starting out slow against a physical Mexico team, particularly in the first quarter where Orlando Magic’s Andrew Nicholson picked up both a double foul and a technical foul as the Canadians trailed 11-8, the home side were able to rally and take back the lead. Nicholson finished with 11 points to go along with 10 rebounds on the night, giving the Mississauga native a double-double.
Junior Cadougan didn’t exactly wow the audience with his final stats, but the former Marquette standout was exceptional in the open floor, seemingly pushing the tempo all game long and creating opportunities on the break while doing so.
“It’s the third game and everybody’s tired, supposedly, so I just had to come in with a lot of energy to set the tone,” said Cadougan. “We’re really young and we’ve only been together for not even two weeks. We have a lot of players with good basketball IQ.”
“We just gotta’ keep it rolling,” said the Toronto native.
Canada’s roster contains a myriad of talented scorers and things were no different against Brazil as the hosts had four players in double-figures and at least six players with over eight points, including former Big 12 standout and Iowa State Cyclone, Melvin Ejim, who finished the night with eight points and four rebounds.
“I think [I’m] just getting more comfortable with the game, getting more comfortable on the perimeter, being able to play inside and out,” said Ejim. “On this team my role is to be a versatile guy, so that means covering different players, that means playing different positions, rebounding and doing what I gotta’ do to help the team win.”
“It’s amazing, it’s amazing,” said Ejim when asked what it would feel like to win the gold medal on Canadian soil. “For me personally, I haven’t really played a lot in Canada. I played a lot of my basketball in the United States, so a lot of people might not know who I am or faintly know who I am. It’s great to be able to showcase [myself], to show them who I am and play in front of my family and friends and in front of our nation.”
Like their Senior Women’s National Team(SWNT) counterparts, the men’s team seems to be following a similar trend by going undefeated in their respective pool, and Ejim hopes to receive a similar audience for the semifinals on Friday evening.
“The girls game was electrifying,” said Ejim, who played in Italy (Virtus Roma) last season. “We’re hoping that we’re gonna get that same [type of] atmosphere when we play.”
Canada will play the United States Friday evening in the elimination round at 6pm Eastern Time.
Murray continued his stellar play with 14 points and five rebounds in the win.
Canada dominated the paint by outscoring the Mexicans 36-28.
Canada’s biggest scoring run came in the first quarter where they wheeled off 17 straight.
Mexico’s Orlando Mendes led the green and red with 24 points (5-13 from 3-pt land)
Written by Jas Grewal
Edited by Drew Ebanks