After stunning a more experienced Turkish team, the Canadians made sure to not be on the other side of an upset.
The Road Warriors held off the lowest seeded team in the tournament, Senegal, 58-55, to book their seat in the knockout semifinals phase of the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament Wednesday afternoon at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Cory Joseph once again led the Canadians with 13 points, while Tyler Ennis added 12. Tristan Thompson, despite scoring just seven markers, grabbed 10 rebounds for the Road Warriors.
Senegal made two jumpers to open the game, leading to their biggest lead of the match at 5-0. Anthony Bennett drilled a three to cap an 11-3 counter, and the number of lead changes started to pile up in the first quarter. Senegal used their height to crash the boards and stop interior shots, while Canada pushed early in transition. At the end of the offensive-filled opening frame, the Canadians were up by a basket, 22-20.
The 26th-ranked Canada team picked up their defensive effort in the second period, limiting their African opponents to eight points. Despite Senegal edging them out on rebounds, Canada capitalized on multiple second chance attempts. The NBA trio of Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett, and Tyler Ennis all converted put-back and paint baskets to break a 26-all deadlock in the middle of the quarter. Prior to the break, Canada went on a 9-2 run, powered by successive stops, to take the first half lead.
Cheikh Mbodj and Maurice Ndour both made jump shots to start the new half and trim Canada’s lead. Senegal’s defense also produced a handful of rejections, mostly on Canada’s backcourt. However, Thompson led the second chance barrage to keep Senegal at bay. Louis Adams drained a three to make it a one-possession game, but Senegal struggled to defend without fouling. A 5/6 clip by Canada from the foul stripe at the tail-end of the third gave them a 47-42 advantage.
The Canada lead went down to just a solitary point lead, 51-50, after a three pointer by Maleye Ndoye with 3:08 remaining in the game. However, baskets by Cory Joseph and Tyler Ennis pushed the Canada advantage.
Another triple by Ndoye with 59 ticks remaining gave the Senegalese a shot at hijacking the game. After a miss by former NBA first overall pick Anthony Bennett, Clevin Hannah had the chance to give Senegal their first lead since the opening quarter but his triple missed. Ndoye then fouled Joseph, his fifth foul of the game. The ensuing free throws gave Canada a four point edge.
A quick play by Senegal resulted to a quick layup by Hannah with five seconds remaining. Senegal then played the foul game sending Joseph to the line once more. The Toronto Raptor split his free throws to give Senegal a shot with three seconds remaining. Hannah though missed a three to give Canada the sweep.
Senegal’s Ndour notched a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Hannah added 13 markers but shot just 35 percent from the field.
Senegal had more rebounds, 53-46, but Canada scored six more points from the free throw area. Furthermore, Canada shot 19/48 from two-point area compared to a poor 10/40 clip by the taller Senegal squad.
The Canadians will next face the second seed of Group B on Saturday, July 9. On the other hand, Senegal need to have an impressive win against Turkey on Wednesday, July 7 at 6:30pm.
Canada (58) – Joseph 13, Ennis 12, Ejim 11, Thompson 7, Bennett 7, Anthony 4, Scrubb P.2, Scrubb T.2, Heslip 0
Senegal (55) – Ndour 16, Hannah 13, Ndoye 6, Mbodj 6, Thomas 5, Ndiaye M. 4, Adams 3, Niang 2, Ndiaye E. 0, Mendy 0, Gueye 0
Quarterscores: 22-20, 33-28, 47-42, 58-55