Canada’s Khem Birch, right, looks to take the ball past Senegal’s Youssoupha Ndoye, left, during their group H match in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 game in Dongguan in south China’s Guangdong province, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. (AP Photo)

Canada’s Khem Birch, right, looks to take the ball past Senegal’s Youssoupha Ndoye, left, during their group H match in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 game in Dongguan in south China’s Guangdong province, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. (AP Photo)

Canada earns its first World Cup victory in 17 years by beating Senegal

It’s a positive moment for the team

Canada’s men’s basketball team finally has a World Cup victory — and some positive momentum in a FIBA World Cup tournament that had been a non-stop narrative of disappointment.

Cory Joseph will take it.

“It’s always good when there’s a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel, that’s always good,” the Sacramento Kings guard said.

Two nights after a heartbroken Joseph looked like he wanted to hop the next plane home, he poured in 24 points — 11 of them in the third quarter — to lift Canada to an 82-60 victory over Senegal for the Canadians’ first World Cup victory in 17 years.

Kevin Pangos chipped in with 13 points, Melvin Ejim had 11, and Khem Birch hauled down 10 rebounds to go with six points for the Canadians who trailed by as many as 13 points early but turned the game around with a dominant third quarter.

No. 23 Canada hadn’t won a World Cup game since they beat Venezuela to finish 13th at the 2002 World Cup in Indianapolis. They went a woeful 0-5 in Turkey in 2010.

“We leave here with some confidence off a win, and got a couple of games to play, and we gotta go play them,” coach Nick Nurse said.

The Canadians, who finished third (1-2) in Group H, now fly to Shanghai for two important classification games they hope will earn them an invitation to one of the second-chance Olympic qualifying tournaments next June.

“Obviously (Thursday’s win) keeps our Olympic qualifying tournament opportunities alive, and I think it just infuses us with a little bit of positive energy around,” said Ejim, whose son Miles was born on Sunday, hours before the team played Australia in their tournament opener.

“We’ve obviously been down those last two games, but every time you get a win and you realize that it’s not that bad, we have goals in front of us that are still attainable, I think tends to change the direction we were going in. This (win) is going to be big for us going into these next two games.”

It had not been the FIBA World Cup that Canada would have drawn up. A killer preliminary-round group labelled the “Group of Death.” Numerous NBA no-shows. The Canadians already had their work cut out for them before they touched down in China. Needing to beat at least one of 11th-ranked Australia or No. 7 Lithuania to advance, they lost both games — 108-92 to the Aussies and 92-69 to Lithuania — killing their hopes of earning one of the seven automatic Olympic berths up for grabs.

The Canadians play Jordan on Saturday and Germany on Monday and a pair of victories should earn them a spot in one of the last-chance events.

“Definitely,” Birch said. ”Those next two games are really important. We needed a win … a win like this gives us more confidence.”

Mouhammad Faye had 14 points to lead 33rd-ranked Senegal (0-3).

Canada got off to a sluggish start Thursday against a long and athletic Senegal team, and a three-pointer by Xane Dalmeida gave Senegal a 13-lead late in the first quarter. Canada trailed 22-11 to start the second.

“We got a lot of good looks, we didn’t make a lot, but the best thing that we did in that first quarter is we kept rebounding and we kept limiting them and their opportunities,” Ejim said. “So when we went on our run, we weren’t in so much of a hole because we had limited them to one-shot opportunities, so as long as we continue to do that… we play our style, we’ll always have a chance no matter what the score is.”

Canada found its form in the second. Consecutive three-pointers by Brady Heslip and Kevin Pangos capped a 22-4 second-quarter run to give Canada its first lead. Joseph scored on pullup jumper to stretch the Canadians’ lead to five points, and they went into the halftime break up 33-32.

A Pangos three put Canada up by 10 with 3:11 to play in the third. The FC Barcelona point guard connected on another shot from deep with 53 seconds left in the quarter, and Canada cruised into the fourth at Dongguan Basketball Center up 59-46.

“We came out in the third quarter and we just picked up our energy, picked up our aggressiveness, we were able to get a couple more stops, stopped them from crashing the boards a little bit,” Joseph said. ”And in terms of my 11 points, my teammates did a good job, I was able to get a couple to go, and they did a good job of setting screens, and finding me when I got a little bit hot.”

The Canadians, who were too passive on the boards in their first two games, outrebounded Senegal 47-35.

“There was an emphasis for us just to crash the boards, starting with me and the bigs… I think we did a good job today. We hit them early and got some rebounds and I think they kind of stopped going (to the boards) late in the game,” Ejim said.

In the late game, Australia beat Lithuania 87-82 to lock up first place in Group H.

Despite losing to both teams, Nurse said there were takeaways from those games.

“I think we got a really good look at obviously two of the best teams in the world, right?” said the coach. ”You get a chance to see what they look like, and go out there and grind it out with them and bang against them and then you just keep playing, right? I thought we had some great stretches in both the Australia and Lithuania games, and just had too many really bad stretches.”

The results of other World Cup groups says plenty about how tough Canada’s preliminary-round opponents were. Canada swept Brazil, and beat Venezuela and the Dominican Republic in World Cup qualifying. Those three countries advanced out of their World Cup groups against teams way down in the world rankings.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Alberta reports 100 new cases of COVID-19

The Central zone sits at 218 active cases

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Red Deer drops to 71 active cases of COVID-19

Province adds 127 new cases of the virus

Police officers and their dogs undergo training at the RCMP Police Dog Services training centre in Innisfail, Alta., on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Mounties say they are searching for an armed and dangerous man near a provincial park in northern Alberta who is believed to have shot and killed a service dog during a police chase. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
RCMP search for armed man in northern Alberta after police dog shot and killed

Cpl. Deanna Fontaine says a police service dog named Jago was shot during the pursuit

Alberta now has 2,336 active cases of COVID-19, with 237 people in hospital, including 58 in intensive care. (Black Press file photo)
Red Deer down to 73 active cases of COVID-19, lowest since early November

The Central zone has 253 active cases of the virus

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

Orange shirts, shoes, flowers and messages are displayed on the steps outside the legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday, June 8, 2021 following a ceremony hosted by the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations in honour of the 215 residential school children whose remains have been discovered buried near the facility in Kamloops, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Alberta city cancels Canada Day fireworks at site of former residential school

City of St. Albert says that the are where the display was planned, is the site of the former Youville Residential School

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

Most Read