A dominant third quarter was not enough to secure a win for Australia on the opening day of the 2019 FIBA Under-19 World Cup, falling to Canada 76-81.
The Emus found themselves down by double-digits at the main break as Canada had a response for every play through the first half.
Australia had a 7-2 start to the game as Kody Stattmann began proceedings with a three-pointer but Canada replied with a 10-0 run of their own.
Looking to get out into the open court as much as possible, Canada’s rim protection and full-court press also caused concerns for Australia in the first term.
Coach Darren Perry was not afraid to rotate through his roster though and had used 11 players by quarter-time, with Isaiah Lee (two points, two assists, two steals) providing the highlight of the period with a chase-down block.
The Emus were down seven at quarter-time but after their front court had proved so overpowering during the Under-18 Asian Championships, they started to utilise their forwards in the paint.
Keli Leaupepe (five points) and Sam Froling (15 points, 13 rebounds, six assists) slowly turned things around and then Tamuri Wigness (13 points) and Sean MacDonald (nine points) caught fire from deep.
However, Canada answered in kind with a couple of three’s of their own and that pushed the lead out to double-digits at half-time.
It then took two and a half minutes for Australia to get on the board in the third before Stattmann (team-high 21 points, four blocks) sparked them by draining consecutive three’s.
Wani Swaka Lo Buluk (seven points, two assists) followed up with five straight points and Stattmann did not cool off, helping to spark an 8-0 run to finish the quarter including another long-range bomb to beat the shot clock nearing three-quarter time.
With Australia’s offence in rhythm, scores were tied at three-quarter time and neither side was willing to give an inch for most of the final term.
Canada eked out a two-point edge inside the last three minutes but then back-to-back triple’s gave them some breathing room with Karim Mane (23 points on 5-9 3PT shooting) proving to be a thorn in the Emus side.
Australia still had a couple of chances late to send the game into overtime but they will be ruing the lead they surrendered in the first half that meant they were playing catch-up for most of the night.
“Canada created pressure that sped up our offence in the first half, they’re very quick in transition and scored too freely,” said Emus coach Darren Perry.
”We challenged them up the floor more effectively in the second half and moved the ball.
“We found our open guys and took back the lead but Canada was better down the stretch.”
The box score is available here and you can watch a replay of the game here.
There is no time to dwell on the loss for Australia as they back-up on Sunday night against Latvia from 11pm AEST.
The Emus should take confidence into that game after Latvia lost their opening night clash to Mali while Australia did beat them earlier in the week in a practice match.
The Australian Emus Schedule for the 2019 FIBA Under-19 World Cup (all times AEST):
June 29: Emus def. by Canada 76-81
June 30: Emus vs. Latvia at 11.00pm
July 3: Emus vs. Mali at 1.15am
July 4: Round of 16
July 6: Quarter-Finals
July 7: Semi-Finals
July 8: Medal Games