It’s been a busy weekend for Team Canada in the FIBA U19 World Cup in Latvia. For the first time all tournament, they played three games in three days starting with their quarterfinal victory over Spain. On Saturday, the Canadians faced off against their southern neighbors in the semifinals of the World Cup, but it was the United States that came away with the 92-86 victory. That sent Canada to the third place game instead of the championship game, but they bounced back to secure a 101-92 victory on Sunday to bring home the bronze medal.
The US led nearly the entire way against Canada after Ben Mathurin scored the first bucket of the game to go up 2-0. It turned into “US builds a lead, Canada carves some of it away” for most of the 40 minutes, and a three from Mathurin with 7:40 left in the fourth quarter pulled the Canadians within three, 71-68. The United States decided to end the game at that point, though, as they ripped off 17 straight to lead by 20 with 4:27 to go.
While it ended up being a six point game at the end, that’s mostly just due to final minute tomfoolery. No, literally final minute, as it was a 90-78 game with exactly 60 seconds to go. Congrats to Canada for outscoring the US 8-2 in the final 60 seconds, but it had no impact on the outcome.
Anyway, we’re here for Olivier-Maxence Prosper updates. O-Max kept his starting streak intact in this one and finished up with nine points, six rebounds, three assists, and a steal. Biggest game of the tournament for his team, and he responded with what is probably his best game of the tournament. That’s a pretty good sign for him when it comes time to suit up for Marquette in the fall.
That brings us to Sunday’s outing against Serbia. It looked like the Canadians were going to run away with this game after a quick hot start by Serbia. After falling behind 6-2 early, Canada responded by closing out the first quarter on a 31-16 run to take an 11 point lead. They tacked on the first four points of the second quarter to make it 37-22 and it looked like things were off to the races.....
And then Serbia did a “Canada in the first quarter” of their own. The Serbians wrapped up the second quarter on a 32-13 binge, and it was only a three by Canada’s Charles Bediako right before the horn that had his team within four at the intermission. We officially had a game on our hands.
Serbia continued to control things into the third quarter, building themselves an 11 point lead at one point. Canada responded, though, and thanks to a bucket from Caleb Houstan, it was all tied up at 74 each with 10 minutes to go.
A dunk from Houstan gave Canada a four point lead with 8:02 to go, the first time that they had been up by more than a possession in a loooooong time. That was points #3 and #4 in a 10-2 run for Canada that left them up 86-78 with 5:53 to go. That lead did not last very long at all as a layup by Lazar Joksimovic with 4:23 left made it a two point game. The Canadians responded with strength, ripping off the next 11 points capped by a triple from Ryan Nembhard to go up 97-84 with 2:43 to go.
From there, it was just math. There were only so many possessions left, and Serbia just did not have enough of them to make a dent on that lead.
Olivier-Maxence Prosper made it a full sweep on starting for Team Canada at the World Cup. He got just 17:28 worth of playing time, but he made it count by going 4-for-5 inside the arc to tally eight points, four rebounds, and an assist. All told, that left O-Max averaging 6.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game. His 42.9% shooting inside the arc is okay-adjacent, but MU head coach Shaka Smart and his staff are going to have to have a conversation with the Clemson transfer about his outside shooting. 4-for-15 (26.7%) is actively bad, although we should point out that Prosper started out the World Cup by making three of his first seven attempts, and that kind of rate — just under 43% — will work just fine.
In any case, if Prosper can give MU something in the neighborhood of 6/4/2 in 21 minutes a night from either the 3 or the 4 on the floor, then I think I’d feel pretty good about what’s going on elsewhere and in the final score department.