(Santo Domingo, DOM) The Canadian senior men’s national team has taken their first step on the road to the Olympics with a 115-73 win over the Bahamas in the FIBA World Cup 2023 Americas Qualifiers. 

“For us to get this win, in this group, against a good team… it’s a great start, and we’re not going to be complacent. There’s a lot of things we can improve on,” said Kyle Wiltjer, who stuffed the stat sheet for Canada with 23 points, two rebounds, three assists, two steals, and a block. 

“It’s a huge honour to represent Canada, and I’m just very, very blessed and thankful they called my name to play,” added Wiltjer. 

Canada started the game slowly, with Wiltjer scoring 12 points early but the Bahamas were able to keep pace with them behind Domnick Bridgewater’s 13 points. Towards the end of the first quarter, Canada took control of the game with a three-point barrage from Kenny Fred Chery, Aaron Best, and Anthony Bennett off the bench. 

Once Canada was rolling, they never looked back. Best had 21 points and four rebounds, Chery chipped in 18, and Kyle Alexander registered a double-double with 12 points and 12 boards. 

Interim head coach Nate Bjorkgren, who is filling in for Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse, said he was happy with his teams’ physicality and communication before echoing Wiltjer’s statement about moving on quickly after the game. 

“I thought our team was very well connected, “said Bjorkgren. “We’re going to enjoy this one right here, right now, and right when we leave the table, we’ll go watch the film and look for ways to get better.” 

The Bahamas came into this game with just two days of training camp, and Canada’s ability to take a 42-point victory off them is significant, with point differential set to play a big part in seeding. The top seven of the 16 teams from the Americas region will make it to the 32 team FIBA World Cup tournament in 2023. 

Wiltjer added the team will be looking to work on their transition defense and rebounding before facing the Bahamas again Monday at 4 p.m. EST airing on Sportsnet. 

“Coach (Bjorkgren) and his staff have a great basis, and I think we’re all on the same page with what we need to improve,” said Wiltjer. “The film doesn’t lie. Even though we won the game, we want to improve it because it’s going to be a long journey over the course of the next couple of years.” 

CAN vs. Bahamas BOXCORE

Photos courtesy FIBA/Canada Basketball

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