The Canadian men’s basketball team picked up a gritty 73-65 win over Norway Saturday, improving to 3-0 at the 2019 Summer Universiade and finishing atop Group D after the preliminary round.
Canada will face Ukraine in the quarter-final Monday in Avellino, Italy, looking to advance back to the semifinal round at the biennial Universiade for the first time since a fourth-place finish in 2013.
It wasn’t a pretty win against Norway, which wraps up the preliminary round 0-3 after losses to Germany and Italy. Canada struggled defensively and shot just 17 of 32 from the free throw line.
“I think it’s good for these guys, it shows them you have to play hard internationally,” said Shawn Swords, Canada’s head coach. “You have to play as hard as you can every single game, and whoever does is going to come out the winner.
“(Norway) makes you work hard on the defensive end, and they really move the ball around well. We had a lot of problems with that.”
Despite Canada’s poor free throw shooting, their inside play proved to be the difference. Both teams made 25 field goals, both teams hauled down 41 rebounds, but Canada managed to get to the line 32 times against just 10 for the Norwegians – and eight of those came in the fourth quarter.
But it was the second frame where Canada won the game. Norway went on a 9-0 run splitting the end of the first and beginning of the second, taking a 20-14 lead after a lackluster opening period for Canada. The lead became 24-20, but Canada went on a 12-0 run of its own to take the lead for good. Norway cut a 34-26 Canadian lead at the half down to just three heading to the fourth, but they couldn’t get over the hump to pull off the upset.
For the third straight day, it was Munis Tutu and Mambi Diawara leading Canada offensively with 15 and 14 points, respectively. Dalhousie’s Sascha Kappos picked up 12 points, with Laurentian’s Kadre Gray adding 11 and Alberta’s Brody Clarke 10.
For Norway, Harald Frey led the way with 10 points, while Johannes Dolven hauled down 10 rebounds to lead all players.
After putting up the clean sheet in the preliminary round, Swords appreciates his team’s cohesion after a short training camp and an abbreviated time together.
“I’ve been impressed with the energy of the guys. The camaraderie they have, the team atmosphere they have, the positivity they’re showing each other. These guys are the best players on their teams, and they’re coming here and aren’t playing as much or aren’t dominant on the ball as much…but they’re all playing as hard as they can for each other.”
Canada’s quarter-final goes Monday night at PalaDelMauro in Avellino, with tip-off set for 2 p.m. EDT / 11 a.m. MDT (8 p.m. local).