Written by Jas Grewal for On Point Basketball
(Toronto, On) ‘Jamal Murray’ seems to be the prevailing theme in the Men’s Pan Am games competition for Canada, and this contest was no different as the soon to be Kentucky Wildcat helped lead Canada to the 88-83 comeback win over Argentina on Wednesday evening to help the red and white go 2-0 in the preliminary round, granting them a semifinals berth on Friday.
While Murray helped surge a triumphant comeback for Canada – he finished with 20 points on the night – it was Andrew Nicholson’s reliable post-presence that steered the ship to victory. The Orlando Magic forward led the Canadians with 24 points to go along with 12 rebounds, giving the 6’9” forward a double-double.
Coach Jay Triano was quick to praise to the former St. Bonaventure standout in Canada’s second win over a physical and gritty Argentina team.
“We thought that Andrew might have an advantage in the post, but we didn’t do a very good job [of feeding him in the first half],” said Triano. “Their pressure bothered us in the first half. We finally were able to swing the ball to the second side, punch inside, and get him some looks. We’ve been trying to give him some looks inside because he’s a good low post scorer.”
Minnesota Timberwolves forward Anthony Bennett was no slouch either, as the former UNLV Running Rebel was perfect from the field and the free-throw line to allowing him to put up 17 points, 15 of which came in the first half.
“Playing with a team mentality, just go out there and rebound, get out and run,” said Bennett after the win.
When asked when was the last time he had this much fun on the court, the Toronto native couldn’t recall a recent time.
“ Honestly, I don’t really remember. It’s always fun playing for your country. Going out there [in front of] Canadian fans, it’s definitely supportive. [It] just feels good to get the win. Just playing with a clear mind, [it] kind of reminds me of the UNLV days, that’s what I’ve been trying to get back to.”
Although he didn’t score the ball well tonight, Brady Heslip had his fingerprints all over the ball near the end of regulation. Physicality seemed to be the theme throughout this one for the Burlington, Ont., native.
“Very physical game, always versus these guys. They’re always fighting, it’s a great team, they’ve got great players,” said Heslip after nailing a timely three-point basket to give Canada the 83-80 lead with 37 seconds left in the fourth. “It was a war out there.”
While Sim Bhullar only scored four points in Canada’s second game of the preliminary round, the Indian big man showed his prowess on the defensive end, totaling three blocks to help negate Argentina’s paint scoring.
“That’s a big reason why I’m on the team,” said Bhullar as he helped lift Canada’s interior defense in the second half. “I know the rules of FIBA, there’s no three in the key and I think that’s a good advantage for us. I’m there to help the team win and create extra possessions, and I think I’m doing a good job so far and [it’s] going in the right direction.”
Canada will play Mexico tomorrow at 6pm Eastern Time as the red and white look to go 3-0 in the men’s Pan Am games.
Canada outrebounded Argentina 35-26 while grabbing 10 offensive rebounds.
Argentina led by as much 13 in this contest.
Argentina’s biggest scoring run was 12-0 in the second quarter.
Canada had a 9-0 run in the fourth quarter.
Written by Jas Grewal
Photos by Reel Motion Imaging
Edited by Drew Ebanks