NASSAU, Bahamas — Forward Melvin Ejim had a game-high 28 points and eight rebounds as Canada beat the U.S. Virgin Islands 118-89 on Thursday in first-round play at the FIBA Americas World Cup qualifier.
Canada trailed 27-21 after the first quarter but turned things around quickly in the second and went into the half up by five. The Canadians kept up the tempo in the second half and took a 17-point lead into the fourth quarter.
“We started off kind of sluggish. They were being really aggressive in the first half,” Ejim said.
“I think we played better defence in the second half and we were able to get some stops and really open the game up. They played really hard and got a lot of buckets in transition so we got to work on that.”
Guard Brady Heslip added 22 points while forward Anthony Bennett chipped in with 13 off the bench to help Canada improve its record to 2-1 in group play.
Canada hit 17-of-39 3-point attempts.
“I thought we responded well coming out. I thought the first three to four minutes of the second half was a real key. We came out strong, made some shots and got our defence a lot better,” Canada head coach Gordie Herbert said.
Deon Edwin led the U.S. Virgin Islands (1-2) with 23 points.
Canada beat the Bahamas 93-69 in Halifax before falling 88-76 against the host Dominican Republic back in November.
Canada is in Group D along with Bahamas, Dominican Republic and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each team faces the other three teams on a home and away basis with the top three teams from each group advancing to the second round.
The Canadians face the Bahamas on Sunday for their fourth qualifying game, then resume first-round play in June against the Dominicans.
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