Thanksgiving may still be four months away, but Canada’s U19 national team got all the turkey and stuffings they could handle as undefeated Team Turkey used their superior size, shooting touch and unselfishness to smash Canada 97-73 in the quarter-finals of the 2023 FIBA U19 World Cup.
The lopsided defeat proved to be an insurmountable challenge for Canada’s U19 team, sending Turkey to their second semi-finals since 2015 and Canada tumbling into the classification round.
Boasting eight players standing over six-foot-eight, Turkey entered the game with an impressive 4-0 record, showcasing their efficiency and balance with four players averaging double figures.
Right from the opening tip-off, Turkey made it clear that Canada’s struggles against European teams would persist. Forced into four turnovers in their first five possessions, Canada found themselves immediately under pressure as Turkey’s quick and relentless attack established a 12-0 run that left Canada reeling.
By the end of the first quarter, Canada was already in a deep 32-16 hole, and the deficit only grew larger as halftime approached. Turkey continued their offensive onslaught, executing their game plan flawlessly and capitalizing on Canada’s defensive lapses.
At the midway mark, the score stood at a staggering 58-30 in favour of Turkey, leaving Canada with an uphill battle to climb in the second half.
Leading the charge for Team Turkey was Karahan Efeoglu, who showcased his efficient scoring ability by dropping 21 of his game-high 27 points in the first half.
Efeoglu’s knack for creating opportunities and converting them efficiently posed a constant threat to Canada’s defence, as he finished with an impressive 11-of-16 shooting and 5-of-8 three-pointers in 34 minutes.
Other standouts included Samet Yigitoglu, who contributed 17 points and 13 rebounds, and Berke Buyuktuncel, who recorded his third double-double of the tournament with 13 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, four blocks, and two steals in 36 minutes.
Meanwhile, Tan Yildizoglu orchestrated Turkey’s offensive flow masterfully, dishing out a game-high nine assists alongside his four points. His precision and vision sliced through Canada’s defence, leaving them struggling to contain Turkey’s relentless attacks.
As a team, and lacking a true playmaker to break down the Turkey defence, Canada’s offence managed a tournament low eleven assists in total.
On the Canadian side, TJ Hurley emerged as the leading scorer, contributing 13 points, including three three-pointers on seven attempts. Xaivain Lee provided support with 11 points, four assists, and two steals, showcasing his versatility and playmaking abilities.
Additionally, Elijah Fisher, Jordann Dumont, Jahari Williamson, and Bubu Benjamin each chipped in with eight points, but their efforts were not enough to overcome Turkey’s dominance.
Unfortunately, Canada’s task was made even more challenging when Michael Nwoko suffered an injury in the first half, severely limiting his impact on the game. Nwoko, who had been a key contributor throughout the tournament, managed just six points and two rebounds in a mere seven minutes of play.
Back in the 2007 FIBA U19 World Championship for men in Serbia, Turkey handed Canada a lopsided 81-53 defeat in Group C, adding to the recent dominance they have displayed against their Canadian counterparts.
Canada continues to struggle against FIBA European teams
Canada’s struggles against FIBA European teams have been a recurring theme. Since the inception of the FIBA U19 World Cup in 1979, Canada has competed in 36 official games against European zone teams, resulting in just 11 wins and 25 losses.
Four of those wins have come against Italy, a team Canada holds a 5-1 all-time record against and the only European team that the Canadians have a winning record against.
The other six wins have come against France (2009, 2017), Latvia (2019), Lithuania (2021), Spain, and Serbia (2021), and Slovenia (2023).
With Turkey’s victory propelling them to the semi-finals, Canada (2-3) now shifts their focus to Argentina (2-3) in the classification side of the bracket for spots five to eight. Argentina suffered an 85-47 defeat against Spain in the quarter-finals.
This will mark the seventh meeting between Argentina and Canada at the FIBA U19 World Cup, with their first encounter since 2013. The series is currently tied at 3-3, with Argentina emerging victorious in 1979, 1983, and 1991, while Canada reciprocated by winning in 2007, 2009, and 2013.