Olynyk, Canada Post Back-To-Back Wins At FIBA Americas

            MAR DEL PLATA, Argentina - Gonzaga University junior Kelly Olynyk and his Canada Senior Men's National Team picked up its second win in as many contests with an 84-62 victory over Cuba at the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship for Men on Friday.

            The Canadians downed the Dominican Republic 73-72 Thursday and find themselves as one of the hottest teams in the tournament with two straight wins following an opening-round loss to heavily favored Brazil.

            Olynyk, from Kamloops, British Columbia, had 8 points and a rebound in 11 minutes against Brazil, then came back to play 16 minutes, score 5 points and grab 4 rebounds in the victory over Cuba.

            Canada is 2-1 in Group A tied with the Dominican Republic. Brazil is 2-0 heading into a late game Friday with Venezuela (1-2) and Cuba (0-3) rounding out the field. The top four finishers advance out of Group play.

            Friday's win was a big confidence booster says veteran center Jesse Young (Peterborough, ON), and, according to him, it's proof that Canada (2-1) is a serious contender in the tournament.

            "[Winning back-to-back games has] been huge," Young said after the game. "We had a tough one against Brazil where I think we controlled that game for probably 37 minutes so to have a tough loss like that and have a bounce-back game like we did against [the] Dominican [Republic] and then to win today I think it shows that we're here to contend for spot in the Olympics."

            Jevohn Shepherd's (Toronto, ON) 13 points led a very balanced Canadian attack that ended up shooting 55 percent from the field and saw every player on the roster make at least one field goal.

            Cuba's (0-3) Yorman Polas recorded a game-high 14 points.

            As good as Canada's offense was in the affair, its defense, once again, was exceptional as it held Cuba to just 35 percent from the field.

            The strong defensive play was highlighted by the Canucks' first-quarter effort where they held the Cubans to just seven points while jumping on them offensively to lead at the end of the quarter 22-7, led by Carl English's (St. John's, NL) eight points in the period.

            The second quarter proved to be a far more even affair but because of the substantial gap Canada created in the first, the team entered the dressing room at the half with a comfortable 38-20 lead.

            During the second half of play, the lead would get trimmed down to as little as 14 points upon occasion but in the end that would be as close as Cuba would get as Canada's blitz was far too great of margin to come back from.
            Andy Rautins (Syracuse, N.Y.), son of head coach Leo,  led Canada  with 15 points against the Dominican Republic, all coming from behind-the-arc, while Carl English (St. John's, N.L.) had 12 points, eight of them in the first quarter alone, and Shepherd 10 points.

            On the Dominican Republic's (2-1) side, Jack Michael Martinez had a game-high 21 points and 16 rebounds with Al Horford also recording a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds.

            For the second game in a row, Canada played excellent defense, holding the Dominican Republic to just 33.8 per cent shooting, while being much more efficient offensively itself, shooting 42.1 per cent from the floor.

            The main weapon in Canada's offensive assault was the three-point shot as the team managed to shoot an impressive 10-for-23 from the land beyond.

            From the start it was clear that Canada was going to have a good night from behind the three-point line as the team hit five triples in the opening quarter to help build a 19-16 lead at the end of the period.

In the second quarter, the Dominican Republic started out very strong, going on a 10-0 run before Canada managed to battle back and make it 30-30 at the end of the first half after strong play from Shepherd and Kelly Olynyk (Kamloops, B.C.), who combined to score seven points in the quarter.

            When the third quarter rolled around, Olynyk and Shepherd continued their strong play and A. Rautins got in on the act, going 2-of-3 from three-point territory, pushing the lead to 51-44 at the end of the quarter.

            That lead would be extended in the fourth to as much as 11 points, 65-45, with two minutes remaining, but then an 8-2 mini-run from the Dominican Republic forced Canada to take a timeout with 40 seconds to play. Still, the lead continued to shrink because of some missed free throws from Canada.

            The match eventually ended up being a case of too little, too late for the Dominicans with Canada just managing to hit enough free throws to keep the game at a four-point distance, something that proved to be crucial as Francisco Garcia hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer to make the game 73-72 for Canada.

            The Senior Men's next game will be Saturday against Venezuela (1-2), a team that last defeated Cuba on Thursday, 106-69.

            Even though Venezuela has a losing record, coach Rautins is definitely not taking his team's next match lightly.

            "We still have a long way to go with Venezuela tomorrow and hopefully everything continues to go well," the coach said. "One of the things we're doing is not thinking about anything else other than our next game. Our guys have been pretty good about that.

            "You get into a tournament like this and have your mind start wandering, thinking of all sort of possibilities. The only possibility that really matters is your next game."

            Tip-off time for the game will be 7:30 a.m. PDT Saturday and can be viewed live on television on TSN2 or streamed online at www.fibatv.com.



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