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Canada stays unbeaten with blowout win over U.S. Virgin Islands in FIBA World Cup qualifying

Kyle Wiltjer scored 24 points as the Canadian men’s basketball team closed its second window of FIBA World Cup qualifying, routing the U.S. Virgin Islands 94-46 Sunday to stay undefeated.

Wiltjer drilled six three-pointers in the victory as Canada, in general, shot the lights out from deep, going 15-of-33.

And defensively, Canada was solid, holding the U.S. Virgin Islands to 26.7 per cent shooting from the floor while turning them over 19 times.

The Canadian led the Virgin Islands by as much as 51 in the contest.

“It was a big challenge for our team,” Canadian coach Nate Bjokrgren said. “We played a real physical, hard-fought game last night versus the Dominican Republic. For the guys to turn around and play again today here at 3:00 against another feisty team, our guys just did such a great job of approaching these two games.

“Their approach to game one and then obviously today’s game, the approach that they had, the relentlessness that they had in how they were attacking, it’s really fun to watch this group play. It’s fun to watch them play defence and share the basketball.”

Canada defeated the Dominican Republic on Saturday, 85-79, in the first of this two-game qualifying window.

With the 48-point victory over the Virgin Islands, Canada now carries an overall point differential of plus-132 through four qualifying games.

Rakeem Christmas, who has had a cup of coffee in the NBA before, led all Virgin Islands scorers with 15 points.

The FIBA Basketball World Cup will start Aug. 25, 2023, hosted by Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines.

Reaching The FIBA World Cup is an important first step in reaching the 2024 Paris Games. A good part of Olympic qualification is directly tied to World Cup results.

Playing in the second of a six-window process, Canada is now 4-0 so far in its qualifying campaign and atop of Group C in the Americas qualifiers as the only undefeated team in the group.

“We’re pleased but we look to the future,” Wiltjer said. “We’re going to take it one game at a time. I’ve been to the World Cup and it’s an incredible event. We want to get back there.

“All hands are on deck trying to get there. And then in the end we want to go to the Olympics as well. We have big goals as a program and this is the time to do it so we’re focused.”

Canada will next play in the third qualifying window on July 1 and 4, once again against the Dominican Republic and the U.S. Virgin Islands, at a location that is still to be determined.

Given the timing of the third window, there’s a chance that some of Canada’s high-level NBA talent, who were not present during this second window, will be available to play then.

Following the third window’s conclusion the fourth-place team in each of the four groups in the Americas region will be eliminated and the qualification process will then enter the second round where the top-three teams in each of the groups will then be split into two new groups.

In Canada’s case, should it make it out of the first round, it would enter a new group with the two other top Group C finisher and the top-three finishers of Group A, which features Argentina, Panama, Paraguay and Venezuela.

From these two new groups, the top-three finishers from each of them and the better fourth-place finisher between the two groups will advance to the FIBA World Cup.

In order to determine the better fourth-place finisher, overall record, including from the first round, will be taken into account. As well, in the event of identical records, point differential is an important determining factor in tiebreakers. The Canadian men’s basketball team hasn’t reached an Olympic Games since 2000.

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