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Inexperienced Canadians Rally Past Greece in Ugly FIBA Qualifiers Opener

The Canadian Senior Men's National Team looked out of sorts for the better part of three quarters, but the talent of Andrew Wiggins was too much for Greece
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The good news is things can't get much uglier for the Canadian Senior Men's National Team.

The Canadians looked as exactly how you'd expect. Despite all the talent on the roster, they were entirely out of sorts having not played a single competitive game as a group coming into the FIBA Olympic Qualifiers in Victoria, BC. For the better part of three quarters Greece showed why experience is so important. They toyed with the Canadians in the pick-and-roll, exploiting all the inexperience on the Canadian roster.

But it still wasn't enough. Andrew Wiggins flashed his NBA shotmaking, nailing a deep three-pointer midway through the third quarter to give the Canadians a lead they wouldn't relinquish. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, the Greeks couldn't take back control, falling 97-91 in Tuesday's opening game of the tournament.

"I think just like any team it was tough at the beginning, you know first time really playing against somebody new," RJ Barrett said. They did a great job; they were definitely a well-oiled machine. I mean they know how to run their stuff and they took it to us. Coach and staff made great adjustments and we were able to really just play together and grind out the win."

Things will certainly get better for Canada. They have to.

"We’ve come a long way, and we’ve got a long way to go," head coach Nick Nurse said. "There’s a lot of polishing that needs to be done. I’m not really looking where our ceiling is right now."

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Tuesday was a tune-up game of sorts. It gave the Canadians an opportunity to get acclimated to the more physical FIBA game and, more importantly, used to playing with one another. Of the 12 players on the Canadian roster, only one, Cory Joseph, played at the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

Ultimately, it just came down to shot-making late. After some lights-out shooting from Greece in the first half, the Canadian defense ramped up after the break and Canada's scorers got to work attacking.

"If you let them get in the open court, if you let them go downhill off the bounce, you’re gonna have a tough night beating them," Greece's head coach Rick Pitino said.

After Nickeil Alexander-Walker did the bulk of the heavy lifting off the bench in the first half, Wiggins and Barrett took over in the second half. Barrett scored 17 of his 20 shots after halftime while Wiggins nailed back-to-back jumpers in the final two minutes to put the Greeks away.

Up Next: China

Canada will be right back at it on Wednesday night when they take on the Chinese at 7:05 p.m. ET. If they win, they'll claim the top spot for the A group heading into the tournament.