Canada has passed its toughest test yet with an 81-77 win over the no. 3 ranked Spain and are on to the FIBA U19 World Cup semi-finals.
The Canadians started the game hot, forcing turnovers and converting in transition but with point guard Ryan Nembhard picking up two early fouls, and another mid-way through the second quarter, Canada was unable to get going from three-point range and shot 0-10 in the first half.
Spain was able to stick around with standout performances from Ruben Dominguez, who had 21 points and five assists and Millan Jimenez, who had 17 points, nine rebounds and six steals.
“Every team in this tournament is tough, you can’t look past any team,” said Zach Edey “We need to remember that. We just need to lock in every game.”
Edey took over the game in the third quarter, putting up the bulk of his 24 points, 15 rebounds and 4 blocks in the quarter while taking advantage of a significant size advantage over Ruben Lopez De La Torre who drew the defensive assignment on Edey most of the game. Canada once again dominated on the boards with 51 rebounds.
“Going to Zach (Edey) early in the second half really spaced it out for the guards and wings,” said forward Caleb Houstan. “He was killing it all game. That kind of opened it up and then our whole offence was flowing more.”
With Canada’s three point shooting woes extending into the second half – with the lone make of the day being from Houstan late in the fourth quarter– it was a pair of bigs, Nana Owusu Anane and Charles Bediako, who stepped up to break the game open with their stellar perimeter defence. Spain struggled to adjust to the length on defence and shot just 23 percent from deep in the half.
Fueled by the smaller lineup with Edey on the bench, Houstan took over in the final frame on his way to a 25-point, six rebounds, five steals and three-assist performance that sealed the game for the Canadians and guarantees them at least a spot in the third-place game on Sunday.
Waiting for Canada in the semi-finals will be the Americans, who defeated Senegal as well on Friday. The match-up with the no. 1 ranked Americans is one of the most highly anticipated games of the tournament.
With four players above six-foot-ten, including seven-foot-one Gonzaga commit Chet Holmgren, the U.S. is one of the few teams in the tournament who can realistically match Canada’s frontcourt size, but with America bringing the highest-scoring offence in the tournament to the table, Canada will need to figure out its three-point shooting woe’s to continue their run in the bracket.
CAN VS. SPAIN BOXSCORE
Photo courtesy FIBA