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Canada downs Bahamas in FIBA World Cup qualifying match

Kyle Wiltjer had 23 points and Aaron Best added 21 off the bench as Canada’s men’s basketball team downed the Bahamas 115-73 on Sunday in an America’s region qualifying game for the FIBA World Cup.

Kenny Chery added 18 points and seven assists to help Canada come away with a win to open the first window of World Cup qualifying.

Domnick Bridgewater led the Bahamas with 13 points.

The two teams will meet again Monday.

“For me it’s a huge honour to represent Canada and I’m just very blessed and thankful that they called my name to play,” Wiltjer said. “For us to get this win in this group against a good team, for us it’s a great start. We’re not going to be complacent, there’s a lot of things we can improve on.”

Canada was the more opportunistic of the two teams on Sunday, scoring 31 points off turnovers and 27 fast-break points.

“The players are doing the things that we’re asking them as a coaching staff,” said coach Nate Bjorkgren. “There was a lot of good communication and talking out there. Most importantly, effort. I thought the effort on both ends of the floor was very good. The physicality that we played with was excellent.”

Bjorkgren, the Toronto Raptors assistant coach, stepped in as head coach for this window while Canada coach Nick Nurse remains busy with the NBA’s Toronto Raptors.

“I thought our team was very well connected today,” added Bjorkgren. “What an honour to be with this great group of guys that we have and to represent Canada. It means a lot.”

Eighty national teams are playing across six qualifying windows to secure their place among the 30 teams that will join hosts Japan and the Philippines in the 32-team 2023 FIBA men’s World Cup.

In the Americas group, 16 teams will face off over two rounds with the top three in each group and the fourth-placed team qualifying for the World Cup, which in turn is a direct qualifier for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Canada is in Group C of the qualifiers with the Dominican Republic, U.S. Virgin Islands and Bahamas.

The World Cup is Aug. 25 to Sept. 10, 2023.

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