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Cory Joseph scores 13 points as Canada improves to 2-0 and locks up first place in group

MANILA, PHILIPPINES (July 6, 2016) – Canada Basketball’s Senior Men’s National Team clinched first place in Group A and locked up a semi-final berth with a 58-55 victory over Senegal during the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament on Wednesday.

“It was a great game if you love defence, I thought both teams were very good defensively,” SMNT head coach Jay Triano said.

“It was a very well fought game and we’re fortunate to get the victory,” he added.

Cory Joseph led Canada in scoring for the second consecutive night, notching 13 points and coming up big in the final moments as Canada improved to 2-0 in the six-team tournament at Mall Of Asia arena.

“Cory does a great job of getting into the lane and creating for us offensively, and I thought he was the focus of their defence, and they did a great job disrupting him,” said Triano. “He still made a couple plays when he had to, but they tried to take him away and out of what they do and I give them a lot of credit. That’s why the game was so close.”

Canada’s starting lineup featured Joseph and Tyler Ennis in the back court, with Thomas Scrubb, Anthony Bennett and Tristan Thompson up front.

Ennis added 12 points for Canada, while Melvin Ejim came off the bench to contribute 11 points and 8 rebounds. Thompson grabbed a game-high 10 boards, including five on the offensive glass. Maurice Ndour paced Senegal with 16 points before fouling out in the fourth quarter. For the boxscore click here.

Canada tripled Senegal, 36-12, on points in the paint, while limiting their opponents to just 19/69 (28%) shooting from the field.

A back-and-forth start to the game saw the teams trading leads early. Canada trailed 20-16 late in the first quarter before scoring six straight points, culminating with Joel Anthony’s tip-in art the buzzer, to go in front 22-20 after 10 minutes. Canada cranked up its defence in the second quarter, holding Senegal to just two points over the final 5:28 of the period to go in front 33-28 at halftime.

Thompson had five points and four offensive rebounds during an evenly matched third quarter, as Canada maintained its five-point advantage, 47-42, going into the final period.

The contest became a nail-biter when Maleye N’Doye drilled a trey with just over three minutes to play, pulling Senegal within one, 51-50. Undeterred, Joseph responded with a running lay-in on the ensuing possession. The Toronto Raptors point guard then made three free-throws in the final 11 seconds, points that would prove the difference when Clevin Hannah missed a potential tying three-pointer as time expired.

“We’ve had a mixture of games, we’ve had some blowouts or close-to-blowouts, and tonight was a close game,” said Ennis. “I think it’s great for us heading into the next couple games, just having one that was close under the belt and we had to really seal the game at the end.”

Canada next plays in a semi-final on Saturday and advance to Sunday’s final with a win. The tournament champion clinches a spot in the Rio 2016 Summer Games. Opponent and time for semi-final are to be determined, follow @CanBBall for updates.

For full Olympic Qualifying Tournament roster click here.

Post-game press conferences can be streamed live here. Full tournament schedule can be found here.

TSN will broadcast the tournament in Canada, broadcast schedule here.

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