Canada clinches Group A, semifinal berth with commanding win over China

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Canada's Andrew Wiggins drives to the basket during a 109-79 win over China on Wednesday at the FIBA Olympic qualifying tournament in Victoria, B.C. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Canada's Andrew Wiggins drives to the basket during a 109-79 win over China on Wednesday at the FIBA Olympic qualifying tournament in Victoria, B.C. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Unselfish basketball, a balanced attack and solid defence were key factors in a commanding Canadian win against China Wednesday night at the Olympic basketball qualifying event in Victoria.

A day after grinding out an opening game victory over Greece, Canada dominated China with a complete team effort and cruised to a second-straight win.

The 109-79 victory over China clinched the top spot in Group A, sending Canada into on Saturday's semifinal games.

B.C. Public Health announced last week it would allow roughly 10 per cent attendance for games at the typically 7,400-person Victoria Memorial Arena beginning Thursday, July 1.

WATCH | Canada rides depth to rout China, tops Group A:

Two wins down, two wins to go to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics for Canada's men's basketball team.

Head coach Nick Nurse had high-praise for his team's effort against China.

"Our guys did a pretty professional job tonight," he said.

"China came out ready to play. We were on a back-to-back. For the most part we did a good job challenging their shots. And certainly we did a great job offensively."

Andrew Wiggins was the top scorer for the second-straight game, racking up 20 points. R.J. Barrett was right behind him with 16. There were seven players who were in the double-digits in scoring for Canada.

"We're still learning to play together but every game we're getting better. The chemistry is building and hopefully we can keep going," Wiggins said.

"When you play together the game comes easy. We have a lot of unselfish guys. We have a lot of guys on this team that can put the ball in the hoop."

The Canadians were also solid on the defensive side of the ball, led by the energetic play of Lu Dort.

"Everybody has to accept their roles. We have to play as a team. Play together. Stick to our roles," Dort said after the game. He finished with 11 points.

"We know we have a great group of guys. We just need to stick together and we'll get there," he said.

The Canadian men's national team is looking to qualify for the Olympics for the first time since 2000. Only the winning team from the six-team tournament in Victoria this week will advance to the Games. Turkey, Uruguay and Czech Republic are in the other group.

WATCH | Wiggins scores game-high 23 as Canada tops Greece on Tuesday:

The top two teams from each group advance to the semifinals. The championship game will be played Sunday.

China started the game with a frantic pace and it seemed to catch the Canadians off-guard early on. But it didn't take long for Canada to find their footing, going on a scoring run to end the first quarter and taking an 8-point lead on China after the opening frame.

Balanced Canadian attack

In the game against Greece it was Andrew Wiggins, R.J. Barrett and Nickeil Alexander-Walker who led the way offensively. But against China the scoring was spread throughout the entire team — a balanced attack that was too much for the Chinese.

It was also Canada's sharp-shooting from behind the arc that was the difference in the game. At one point they mounted a 20-point lead in the first half on China after back-to-back-to-back threes.

The Canadians had 11 three-pointers in the first half, with nine different players taking part in the shooting party. At the half Canada led China 59-46.

"It's a blessing to be here and another opportunity to get to our goal," Andrew Nicholson said. "Everybody has bought in. Looking forward to getting better in the next couple games."

Nicholson finished the game with 14 points.

"We have a lot of energy and talent," he said. "Everyone's dream to get to the Olympics."

There was no taking their foot off the gas for the Canadians coming out of halftime as they continued to take the game to China, leading by as many as 23 points at one point in the third quarter.

WATCH | North Courts special guests preview FIBA Olympic qualifier:

The quarter ended with a mini scoring run by the Chinese to cut the Canada lead down to 14 points. But that was as close as China would get as the Canadians took their game to a different level in the fourth quarter, outscoring their opponent 30-14 in the final frame for a 30-point victory.

Canada finished the game with 17 three-pointers.

"We have a lot on the line when it comes to this," Trey Lyles said.

"Growing up watching the Olympics all the time and now having the opportunity to go to them potentially, it's almost like it's not real. Once we get there it's going to be a great experience."

This is a seven-week commitment for these Canadian players if they qualify for the Olympics — Team Canada general manager Rowan Barrett said he appreciates the sacrifices being made by the 12 players who have committed to the team for this journey.

Should the team advance, they'll leave Victoria for Hawaii to spend time there before finally leaving for the Tokyo Olympics.

Canada now has two days to rest before a pivotal semifinal game Saturday afternoon. Their opponent is yet to be determined as they'll play the second-place team from the other group.

Turkey plays the Czech Republic on Wednesday evening after an opening game victory over Uruguay on Tuesday night. The group stage concludes on Thursday with China playing Greece and Czech Republic playing Uruguay.

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