African Champions Mali have made history.
Playing in only their third FIBA U19 World Cup — Mali defeated Puerto Rico 84-74 in the quarter-finals of the 2019 World cup to become the first African nation to reach the semi-finals.
16 year-old (July 13, 2002) phenom Oumar Ballo (6’10, 7’6″ foot wing-span) continued to turn heads with his second-consecutive, big-time double-double and finished with 21 points, 17 rebounds, 4 blocked shots and 2 steals.
Ballo is averaging an eye-popping 18.7 points, 13.7 rebounds, 4 blocks, 2 steals and 2 assists in three games after missing the first two games including Mali’s signature 71-70 win over defending champions Canada
Mali fought-off a sluggish start and hot shooting Puerto Rico team that controlled the tempo and trailed 21-15 after the first-quarter.
From there it was a Mali, who quickly turned the second-quarter and the rest of the game in to a block and dunk party outscoring their North American counterparts 22-12 and grab a 37-33 lead.
Head coach Alhadji Dicko ordered more of the same recipe in the third-quarter as Mali recorded a total of 9 dunks and 9 blocked shots in the 10-point win. Mali outscored Puerto Rico 22-12 in the third-quarter for a comfortable 59-45 lead. The margin hit a game-high 20 points at 65-45 before a late effort from Puerto Rico cut the deficit to single digits, but never threatening Mali’s historic win.
The victory also gives Mali the bragging rights of having the highest placement by a African nation at the U19 level. The previous best finish by an African team was 11th-place and established by Nigeria and Egypt.
Fousseyni Drame paced Mali with 22 points and 4 steals, twin brother Hassan Drame had a strong all-round game out with 9 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals.
Siriman Kanoute added 16 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists but was responsible for 10 of Mali’s 29 turnovers. Abdramane Camara also contribute with 7 points and 8 rebounds.
Mali (4-1) will now play the winner of France/Canada for a shot at advancing to their first-ever FIBA U19 championship game.
Mali finished dead last, in 16th-place at the 2017 FIBA U19 World Cup in Egypt, Cairo — dropping all 7 games and losing by an average of 21 points including wide-margin losses to Canada 91-42, USA 117-69, Spain 62-43, New Zealand 87-63, Angola 73-54. Mali’s two closest contest were against Japan 76-73 and Iran 70-61.
Mali’s other FIBA U19 appearance was in 2007 when they finished 15 out of 16 teams with a 1-4 recording a 89-81 win over Puerto Rico.
Canada sweeps two-game series against New Zealand
Team Canada fought off a strong effort from the New Zealand Tall Blacks to sweep a two-game pre-FIBA World Cup Series with a 103-100 overtime victory.
Philip Scrubb scored a team-high 24 points, dished out 6 assists and pulled down 5 rebounds to once again lead six Canadians in double-figures. Kevin Pangos added 17 points and 9 assists. Oshae Brissett continued to produce with 12 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists double-double before fouling out. Kyle Witjer 18 points, 5 rebounds. Thomas Scrubb 12 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and Owen Klassen 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The Tall Blacks came out strong after being embarrassed by a 34-point loss to the Canadians in game one of the series leading 23-13 after the first-quarter. Canada was able to execute in the second-quarter ripping off a 12-2 run to get back in the game and trailed New Zealand 36-33 at half-time.
The Canadians broke-open a 48-48 tie mid-way through the third-quarter with an 8-0 run taking a 56-48 lead on two made free-trows by Thomas Scrubb and finished the quarter ahead 60-59.
Kevin Pangos drilled two three-pointers early in the fourh-quarter to push the Canadian lead to 71-61 with 7:24 to play in regulation. The Tall Blacks continued to play hard on the strength of Cory Webster who poured in a game-high 33 points, added 5 rebounds and 5 assists to force overtime at 81-81.
Kyle Wiltjer caught fire in the extra session scoring 11 of Canada’s 22 overtime points, knocking down two triples as the Team Canada hang-on for the the win a series sweep.
“We are just glad we got win, I thank all the fans who came out made the game fun, that’s what its all about.” thanked Witjer after the game.
“We have a very beautiful team, very unselfish so any given guy can step-up every night so it makes us tough to defend.” – continued Wiltjer about his performance after the game.
With Canada missing majority of their current NBA stars, Wiltjer a former second-round pick of the Houston Rockets is extremely proud to represent Canada once again “its a huge honor every time I play for Canada so I’m really honored to be on this team and Australia is beautiful country so thank you for having us”
Canada connected on 14-of-50 triples (28%) and struggled at the free-throw line shooting 17-of-26 (65%). Canada yanked-down 20 offensive rebounds on their way to a slim 58-55 advantage.
A night after losing Kaza Kajami-Keane to an ankle injury Team Canada lost yet another point guard as Andrew Nembhard picked-up a right knee injury early in the first-quarter and didn’t return.
Despite various incorrect reports, Canadian head coach Nick Nurse confirmed that point guard Cory Joseph will indeed be available for the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
Canada improves to 4-2, with victories over Nigeria, Australia and New Zealand (2x). Team Canada will take on the United States of America in their final exhibition game before the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
Canada simply too much New Zealand
Canada opened-up a two-game exhibition series against New Zealand firing on all-cylinders — blowing-out the Tall Blacks 122-88 in Sydney, Australia.
Aaron Best game-high 20 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals led a complete team effort that saw all Canadian players hit the scoresheet with six players in double-figures.
Andrew Nembhard continued his stellar exhibition play with 17 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 steals including a game-high 27 minutes. Oshae Brissett added 16 points, 7 rebounds. Owen Klassen just missed out on a double-double with 12 points, 9 rebounds. Kevin Pangos returned to the starting line-up and registered 10 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists. Duane Notice got his first taste of action and rounded-out the top scorers with 10 points in just 13 minutes.
Philip Scrubb (8 points, 2 rebounds) drilled back-to-back-three-pointers as Canada scored the first 10 points of the game. New Zealand reeled-off 11-straight to take their only lead of the game at 13-12 — Canada wasted no time responding with a game-changing 20-0 run on barrage of three-pointers to run away with the game and 35-16 first-quarter lead on 7-of-14 triples in the first 10 minutes.
“It was a great team effort, guys were sharing the ball, we were getting up-and down and getting it after on defense, we stuck to the game plan and were able to come-out with the win.” discussed player of the game Aaron Best after shooting 4-for-8 from the three-point line.
The hot shooting continued in the second-quarter with Canada ringing-up another 26 points to take a 61-47 half-time lead. The Canadians shot 23-for-41 (56%) from the floor, drilling 9-of-20 three-pointers and out-rebounded the Tall Blacks 27-18 in the opening 20 minutes.
Team Canada outscored the Tall Blacks 31-26 in the third-quarter and closed out the game by hitting the century for the first-time in the exhibition series in 34 point win of New Zealand.
Canada splashed 43-of-78 (55%) field-goals, knocked down 16-of-36 (44%) three-pointers and pounded the Kiwis 53-33 on the glass.
Unfortunately the win came at a cost as Canadian guard Kaza Kajami-Keane (8 points, 2-of-2 three-pointers in 5 minutes) was helped to the locker room with what looked like a pretty bad ankle injury. Kajami Keane had been playing well — fighting for 12-men roster spot on a loaded Canadian back-court.
Tai Webster led the Tall Blacks with 19 points, 7 rebounds. Rob Loe and Isaac Fotu added 17 points each. Cory Webster chipped in with 13 points and 6 rebounds.
Tall Blacks split a pair of games (99-89 loss, 104-87) against Japan and will play France and Serbia in China to wrap-up their preparation schedule. New Zealand is in a extremely tough group F that features Greece, Brazil and Montenegro.
The two teams will go at it again tomorrow night as Canada (3-2) continues to prepare for the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China.
Nick Nurse opted to rest Kyle Witjer and was still without the services of starting point guard Cory Joseph and sharp-shooter Brady Heslip. Joseph is expected to join the team for Canada in China in time for the 2019 World Cup.
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