Strong finish pushes Canada past Australia


Michel Belanger

July 10, 2013, KAZAN, Russia (Team Canada) (ISN) – The Canadian men’s basketball team passed its first true test at the Universiade on Wednesday afternoon, topping Australia 92-83 despite trailing for much of the second half.

The final push came courtesy of Kevin Pangos of Holland Landing, Ont., and Dwight Powell of Toronto, who connected on a key series of offensive possessions late in the fourth quarter. 

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Pangos sank his first three-pointer of the game to give Canada an 80-77 lead and then found Powell on the baseline where the 6-foot-9 Stanford University student converted three straight opportunities inside to push Canada out in front for good. Pangos, an 82 per cent free throw shooter at Gonzaga last season, iced the win from the charity stripe.

After dominating the first quarter 27-15, Canada saw its rivals respond with a 31-14 second frame and was down 46-41 heading into halftime.

“Dwight was setting a good screen, he was open on the roll and he finished strong,” said Pangos, who finished with nine points and four assists in 20 minutes of action. “I came off the bench looking to be aggressive whether that meant shooting it or finding my teammates.”

Powell finished in double-digits for the third straight game with 10 points. Brady Heslip of Burlington, Ont., led Canada in scoring for the third consecutive match with 18 points, including 4-of-5 shooting from three-point range.

“We played very well in the first quarter but then we took a hit from them,” said head coach Jay Triano. “My challenge to our players was to respond in the second half and we came back with a little bit more fight.”

Australia received strong performances from 6-foot-9 centre Cameron Bairstow, a junior last season at New Mexico, and veteran guard Clint Steindl, who played four years of NCAA ball at St. Mary’s. The duo teamed up to run all over the red and white in the second quarter, swinging the score from 31-15 in Canada’s favour to a 46-39 Australian advantage just before the break.

Pangos, who plays against Steindl in the West Coast Conference regular season circuit, knew that containing the Aussie shooter’s energy was important. “We had to make sure to not lose sight of him because he can shoot it when he gets a little bit of space. He always brings emotion and energy and he knocks down big shots.”

Bairstow had a big first half with 12 points and he was up to his game-high total of 19 before he picked up his third foul early in third. In the fourth, Owen Klassen of Ottawa shut out the big Aussie with strong interior defence.

Canada struggled with turnovers and offensive fouls in the first half, which Triano said highlights the difference between international competition and the players’ university circuits. “It’s an understanding of the international game that we sometimes don’t have. If you move, or lower your shoulder, they’re going to call it. That’s why we’re here, these guys need to learn the international game.”

The win moves Canada’s record to 3-0 in Group C. The team continues pool play against the Czech Republic (1-2) Thursday at 8:30 p.m. local time (12:30 p.m. ET). The Pool C finale against the United States (3-0) will be carried on live at 1 p.m. local (5 a.m. ET) on Friday.

BOXSCORE: Canada vs Australia