CANADA FALLS TO LITHUANIA AT THE FIBA BASKETBALL WORLD CUP 2019 | Canada Basketball

CANADA FALLS TO LITHUANIA AT THE FIBA BASKETBALL WORLD CUP 2019

DONGGUAN, CHINA (September 3, 2019) - The Canadian Senior Men’s National Team fell 92-69 to Lithuania on Tuesday to drop to 0-2 at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019.

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Kyle Wiltjer led all scorers with a game-high 24 points in the loss, shooting 7-for-11 from the floor, including 3-for-3 from beyond the arc, while Cory Joseph added 15 points and Khem Birch added 12 for Canada.

Lithuania had five players in double figures, led by Edgaras Ulanovas who scored 15 points, Jonas Valanciunas who finished with 13 points and eight rebounds, as well as 11 points apiece from Mantas Kalnietis and Lukas Lekavicius. 

“Obviously not the outcome that we wanted, so we have to learn from it,” Wiltjer said. “This isn't the end of the tournament. We have to give [Australia and Lithuania] credit. They’re very seasoned. They’ve played a lot of games together.”

Though Canada got off to a better start than they did in Sunday's loss to Australia, Lithuania’s size proved to be a problem as Canada was outscored 52-28 in points in the paint, as well as outrebounded 46-27, including 19-9 on the offensive glass.

“Obviously it was a bit of a size issue,” head coach Nick Nurse said. “We knew for us going in [that this could be an issue], and it was pretty evident. There were a lot of baskets at the rim, a lot of second shots.”

A combination of early turnovers (seven), trips to the free throw line (Lithuania 8-for-10, Canada 3-for-4), and hot shooting (Lithuania shot 57 percent in the opening frame), saw Team Canada trail by 10 after the first quarter, 24-14, despite shooting 50 percent.

“If we would have taken a little bit better care of the ball and not race straight to the bonus the first five minutes of the first quarter we might have had a really good start there,” Nurse said. “We were turning it over too much early. We had seven turnovers in the first quarter, we limited that to one in the second quarter and played that quarter even.”   

Canada was unable to get closer than seven in the second quarter. After Lithuania scored five straight to stretch their lead to 16, Canada responded by scoring seven straight thanks to free throws from Wiltjer, a Kevin Pangos layup followed by a three-pointer from Wiltjer to get back to single digits, 39-30. After a pair of free throws from Phil Scrubb with a second remaining in the half, Canada went into the break still trailing by 10, 46-36 as the teams each scored 22 points in the second quarter. Wiltjer led all scorers at the half with 15 points, while Ulanovas led Lithuania with 13 points. 

The third quarter continued to be a challenge for Canada. Despite a 22-point effort from Wiltjer through three, Canada could not string together enough stops to make a dent into Lithuania’s lead and Lithuania won the quarter 24-18, to go into the fourth leading 70-54.

“We were coming in hoping to get up a lot of threes tonight, and shoot over the top of them,” Nurse said. “But give them credit, they were playing hard, hustling out to our shooters and about the only one they couldn’t keep track of was [Wiltjer].”

In the final frame, Lithuania maintained the lead throughout. Though a three-pointer from Joseph (who scored nine points in the fourth) trimmed the deficit to 12 with 4:44 remaining, Lithuania responded with an 8-0 run to stretch the lead to 20, then went on to collect the victory.

Despite obvious disappointment over Tuesday’s loss, Wiltjer was asked about playing for Canada following his game-high performance.

“For me, my dad played for Canada growing up and so did my older sister, so it’s part of the family tradition,” Wiltjer said. “Any time you’re able to represent your country on this stage is an unbelievable experience. Playing for a really good coach, an NBA Champion [in Nick Nurse], it’s an honour.”

Nurse acknowledged his team’s disappointment in their performance over the first two games of the tournament, but was ready to shift the focus to the games that remain.

“This is a good, hard-working group of guys with a lot of pride, that’s why they’re here,” Nurse said. “We’ve got to represent ourselves. I think we feel a little down about the result tonight, that we couldn’t battle a little harder, and make it a little closer, you know, but we’ve got to get ready to play a talented Senegal team that played Australia tough today, and they we go from there, see what awaits us from there.”

Up next for Canada is a matchup against Senegal on Thursday, Sept. 5 at 3:30 A.M. ET. After falling to Lithuania 101-47 on Sunday, Senegal dropped an 81-68 decision to Australia on Tuesday. Fans in Canada catch watch the game live on DAZN.