Canada started slow but finished strong Tuesday, posting a 97-91 win over Greece in its first test in a must-win Olympic qualifying tournament.
Greece led 50-46 at the half, but the Canadians — helped on by their young NBA stars Andrew Wiggins and RJ Barrett, both with double-digit point totals — roared back in the second half for the win.
Wiggins finished with 23 points, and Barrett had 22 points.
“It was tough at the beginning playing against somebody new,” said Barrett. “But we were able just to play together and grind out the win. We did a good job of just figuring it out.”
Greece was called out for 22 fouls, hindering their depth and giving Canada extended possessions and crucial free-throw opportunities late. Canada also shot 55.4 percent from the field.
Rick Pitino, the renowned United States college basketball coach who also coaches Greece, said Barrett was a force during the game, especially on the left side of the court where he attacked the basket at will.
“If you give him his left hand he’s unstoppable,” said Pitino. “He’s strong. He’s tough.”
Since his days as a college player, Barrett has improved every facet of his game, said Pitino, who expects to meet Canada for a rematch in the tournament.
Eight NBA players are on the roster, arguably the most talented Canadian men’s basketball team in history for this week’s tournament on home court.
Alexander-Walker was dominant for Canada in the first half scoring 14 points, when there appeared to be more rust than finish as the Canadians were struggling at the outset against Greece.
Kostas Antetokounmpo, the youngest of the three NBA Antetokounmpo brothers, was a presence for Greece in half coming off the bench.
Greece is without two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and brother Thanasis Antetokounmpo, with the Milwaukee Bucks competing in the NBA playoffs.