MEXICO CITY (AP) Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins scored 19 points to help Canada beat Puerto Rico 112-92 on Friday night for its third straight victory in the Olympic qualifying tournament.
Cory Joseph, Nik Stauskas and Kelly Olynik added 15 points each, Brady Heslip had 13, and Philip Scrubb 11 for the Canadian team that that fields nine NBA players and is considered one of the favorites to win one of the two berths to Rio.
”It doesn’t matter how many NBA players we have because we’re still a young team in international competition. Every game we are learning a little bit more,” Canadian coach Jay Triano said. ”We are OK right now, but we need to be very good next week.”
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Jose Juan Barea had 20 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for Puerto Rico.
”I’m proud of the team. It’s not very usual to say something like that after losing by 20 points, but we played with a lot of heart,” Puerto Rico coach Rick Pitino said. ”We have the heart to win games, even though you can’t see that in the win column.”
Canada (3-1) finished second in Group B behind Argentina (4-0) and will play Panama on Sunday in the second round.
Puerto Rico will face Mexico in the second round.
Puerto Rico led by seven in the second quarter, but Canada closed the first half on 11-0 run to take a 46-44 lead. In the third, the Canadians had a 13-4 rally, capped by Wiggins’ 3-pointer, to make it 62-48.
Earlier, Luis Scola had 26 points and 10 rebounds in Argentina’s 77-68 victory over Venezuela.
Andres Nocioni added 21 points, and Patricio Garino added 12 points for Argentina, set to play Uruguay in the second round.
”It will be a new beginning. We have to rest the body and the mind,” Argentina coach Sergio Hernandez said. ”No one likes to lose, but we are going to lose eventually. It’s hard to finish undefeated in this kind of tournaments.”
Argentina is looking to qualify for its fourth straight Olympic games. It is using a young team, with only two veterans – Scola and Nocioni – from the team that won the gold medal in 2004 in Athens and the bronze in 2008 in Beijing.
Also, Trevor Gaskins scored 23 points in Panama’s 89-72 victory over Brazil.
”It may be a surprise for somebody that we qualified to the second round, but not for us. We had a great preparation for this tournament,” Panama coach David Rosario said. ”We are going into another stage where again, no one thinks that we are the favorites, but this a tournament of surprises and there can be more.”
Brazil was already qualified for the Olympics as host nation. It is using the tournament as preparation for its younger players.
”It’s not a great feeling for Brazil basketball to be eliminated from the competition,” coach Ruben Magnano said. ”We paid a high price for this investment (young players). I’m not happy at all.”