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Mexico wins at home, upsets USA; Canada, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico end with victory
MIAMI (United States) - The final day of the first window of FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Americas Qualifiers ended with Group C and D closing out their matchups to put themselves in the best position for when they meet again for the second window in February.
From group leaders cementing themselves as threats, to more last-second victories that proved any team is able to put on the pressure, here is a recap from the last day of action.
After their dominant performance on Day 3, Canada came out with momentum on their side as they faced off against Bahamas once again. In qualifiers, points differential carries throughout each window of the tournament, which complimented Canada’s high-scoring offense as they stay undefeated in Group C after beating Bahamas 113-77.
Bahamas were much more prepared for Canada’s electric start than they had been previously. But players like Kyle Wiltjer scoring 12 points in the first 6 minutes of play was still hard to contain. However, Bahamas managed to stay within 12 going into halftime as they shot over 55 percent from 2-point range and played strict defense on Canada’s sharp-shooters as Canada shot 50 percent from beyond the arc.
The difference came from Canada’s stamina as they were able to keep up their high-scoring drive in the second half while widening the gap from Bahamas, outscoring their opponent 55-31 to close out the game. Canada’s bench was a much stronger force to be reckoned with which caused Bahamas to commit turnovers and fouls that let Canada score 20 points from the free throw line alone.
Six different Canadian players scored 10 or more points in the win, but Wiltjer’s 25 points made a huge impact for Canada in the win while Kassius Robertson added 15 of his own. David Nesbitt showed another solid performance for Bahamas with 18 points while Travis Munnings added a near double-double with 10 points and 8 rebounds in the game as both players shot 50 percent from the floor.
If Cuba’s match-up against USA proved anything, it’s that they can roll with the top contenders in the tournament and play to the level of excellence as many others in the Americas. Jasiel Rivero, one of the keys to Cuba’s success in their close game the day prior, used his skill and leadership to replicate that into another solid performance for Cuba as they faced Puerto Rico, the 19th ranked team in the world.
Cuba jumped out to an 11-point lead in the first quarter over Puerto Rico, and despite a strong second quarter performance from their opponent, Cuba led by 6 points going into halftime as they kept up physically with players like Ismael Romero who was a force for Puerto Rico in the second quarter.
Puerto Rico kept up the momentum to take back the lead in the third, holding Cuba to only 7 points.. Cuba forced Puerto Rico to take bad fouls in the game, but ultimately the depth of Puerto Rico’s bench kept them in the game to win 69-60. Cuba went on a 5-0 in the end but was not enough to close the gap.
Romero led all Puerto Rico scorers with 18 points and 8 rebounds, while Isaac Sosa, Jordan Howard and Jezreel De Jesus all scored 10 points for the team as Jordan Murphy added 11 rebounds. Yoanki Mensia led Cuba with 16 points while Jasiel Rivero added a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Dominican Republic’s home crowd wanted another stellar performance from them as they faced off against Virgin Islands once again, and they delivered. They controlled the match from start to finish as they dominated and won outright 100-56 to stay undefeated at home to end the first window.
Starting out the game by leading the first half by 15 points, Dominican Republic’s biggest feat was their defense keeping Virgin Islands to just 31 points, Dominican Republic kept high profile players like Ivan Aska at bay forcing him to shoot just 38 percent from the floor. They also controlled the offensive rebounds, limiting Virgin Islands in their pursuit of any second chance points in the game.
Dominican Republic really made their mark in the second half, outscoring their opponent by double (54 points to Virgin Islands’ 25), including 30 points in the fourth quarter. Dominican Republic’s bench accounted for 51 of their 100 points, while Virgin Islands’ bench had only 13, and their inability to have multiple scorers that mimicked Dominican Republic’s lineup was their downfall in the loss.
Dominican Republic had 5 scorers in double digits as Victor Liz had another standout performance with 23 points, but it was Eloy Vargas who made one of the biggest impacts as he tipped in 16 points along with 15 rebounds including 11 defensively. Jamaal Samuel led Virgin Islands with 13 points as Aska added another 11.
A showcase of two of the top 25 teams in the world, Mexico vs. USA was going to be a battle on both ends of the ball, with both teams able to find the rim with ease and apply pressure on defense that would change the momentum of the game. As Group D came into the competition as one of the toughest groups to play in, Mexico and USA went to the final wire as Mexico took the game 97-88.
USA dominated the first two quarters, scoring 57 points in the first 20 minutes as they learned from their near upset against Cuba. However, Mexico’s physical offense was much harder to contain, and USA only led by 9 going into the half. Mexico scored 48 points of their own, but their halftime adjustments would prove to be the key in this game.
Mexico held USA to just 12 points, playing pressurized defense that caused USA to commit way more turnovers than usual. Mexico grabbed sneaky steals and capitalized on those turnover points that made USA get hot-headed and lose their cool offensively. They used the moments of USA’s weakness to score 31 points to take the lead over that would seal the game.
USA outscored their opponent in the final 10 minutes of play, yet they were unable to complete the comeback as Mexico took the win at home.
Mexico’s high-scoring offense was powered by four different players scoring 18 or more points, with Orlando Mendez leading the charge with 27 points while Paul Stoll had another superior game with 18 points and 11 assists. USA’s star guard Isaiah Thomas led the team with 21 points while BJ Johnson added 15 for USA in the loss.