The Canadian men’s wheelchair basketball team, facing elimination, is still in search of a first win as they prepare to face Japan in their third game of preliminary action.
The men were able to improve upon their rocky start, but the adjustments made were not enough as they fell 77-73 in overtime to Turkey on Friday.
Despite the loss, Canada built upon their dismal shooting performance from game one against Spain. Connecting on 30 of their shot attempts for a 40 per cent shooting average against Turkey — that was a significant increase from the 27 per cent they shot in game one.
Canadian coach Matteo Feriani was pleased with the improvement he saw from his team, but knows there is still more work to be done.
“Keep learning. We learned when we play with heart and when we play with intensity, when we play with discipline, and we play together with unity is when we get the most out of ourteam. We have to keep learning that.”
As the Canadians prepare for Japan, on Saturday, they will certainly lean on stars Nik Goncin and Patrick Anderson, who combined for 57 points in their previous matchup against Turkey.
Anderson recorded 24 points, nine assists and led all Canadians with an impressive 22 rebounds. Goncin recorded a triple-double with 33 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists, while shooting four of five from the three-point line.
The play from the Canadian stars is encouraging, but the entirety of the team will need to get more involved in scoring if they want to come away with a victory against Japan. In facing Turkey, all other Canadian players combined for just 16 points.
The Japanese enter their matchup against Canada with two wins, defeating Columbia 63-56 in their first game and taking their second 59-52 over the Republic of Korea. Kei Akita led the Japanese scoring with 41 points through his first two games, while Renshi Chokai has been their key distributor, totalling 20 assists.
While the Japanese hold a record of 2-0 and have been playing sound fundamental basketball, they are not unbeatable.
Looking ahead to their matchup against Japan, Anderson stressed the importance of staying true to their game planning.
“As far as the team is concerned, we did a better job in today’s game executing the game plan,” said Anderson. “We’re going to need to build on that tomorrow because Japan is a very different team, and they have different looks.”
The Canadians will need to continue playing solid on the defensive end of the floor, especially around the basket. Japan’s game plan through their first two matchups has been clear: attack the paint, having scored 62 points that way through the preliminary round.
Canada will need to force Japan to play from uncomfortable positions and areas where they haven’t been able to find success. Japan has struggled from behind the three-point line, connecting on just four of their 18 attempts from long-range. Sound, interior defence and forcing the ball to the perimeter will be the key for a Canadian win.
In addition to phenomenal interior play, the Japanese excel at finding ways to get to the free-throw line, having drawn 26 fouls through their first two games. The Canadians will need to be conscious of Japan’s ability to get to the line, as they committed 28 fouls in their previous matchup, giving Turkey 30 chances from the charity stripe.