Nigeria rebounds to beat Canada in pre-FIBA World Cup friendly

Canada's Aaron Best (12) get clear and takes the shot against Nigeria's Ekpe Udoh (8) during the first half of their exhibition game in Winnipeg. (John Woods/CP)

WINNIPEG — Philip Scrubb knows missing 10 out of 11 shots late in a basketball game isn’t a good thing, but he predicts it will become a distant memory for the Canadian national men’s team.

The guard from Richmond, B.C., and his teammates couldn’t quite erase a 10-point deficit late in the fourth quarter, losing 90-81 to Nigeria in exhibition play as Canada’s shooting went cold down the stretch on Friday night.

"We missed some easy shots," said Scrubb, who led his team with 12 points. "I think once we play a bit more together, we’ll make those. Right now, it’s just about learning and trying to get better."

Canada narrowed the gap to 82-81, but Nigeria’s Jordan Nwora hit a three-pointer with a minute remaining to make it 85-81 in front of 8,000 fans at Bell MTS Place.

Nwora led all scorers with 19 points and the forward was good on all three of his three-point attempts. Canada defeated Nigeria 96-87 on Wednesday night in Toronto in the opener of the two-game series.

Both teams are gearing up for the FIBA World Cup, which starts later this month in China.

Team Canada head coach Nick Nurse was well aware of his players’ string of misses, but he wasn’t gnashing his teeth.

"We keep a stat we call consecutive stops, which means how many times we don’t let them score. So it was a four-point game and we stopped them six straight times and it was still a four-point game," Nurse said with a grin.

He also viewed it as unusual.

"I thought they made a lot of tough threes, where we were really chasing them and they’d turn and make it. Give them credit for that," Nurse said.

"I thought at our end, we had even better looks maybe than they were getting and we didn’t hit some. And that’s sometimes just the ball goes in and sometimes it doesn’t."

Scrubb built his team a 7-0 lead to start the game and Canada finished the first quarter ahead 27-18 off his 10 points and six from Aaron Best. Nwora had seven points in the first quarter.

A three-point shot by Nigeria’s Chimezie Metu (San Antonio Spurs) at the buzzer squeezed Canada’s lead to 49-47 at halftime.

The teams traded leads for most of the third quarter, but Nigeria was ahead 75-67 going into the fourth quarter.

Canadian Kyle Wiltjer, who plays in Turkey, was injured early in the fourth. He was later seen riding a bike and Nurse said it was a twisted ankle and not serious.

Nurse received a technical foul with seven minutes left in the game after arguing with the referee about fouls. One fan yelled, "Do you know who he is?" to the official, referring to Nurse coaching the Toronto Raptors to an NBA championship this year.

Nurse laughed when told about his vocal supporter.

"I’m sure he’s back there telling them, ‘I teed up Nick Nurse,’ " he said. "No, I’m just kidding. That’s what refs do, trust me I know. Yeah, I deserved it."

The Canadians were flying to Australia after Friday’s game for a five-game exhibition series against Australia, the U.S. and New Zealand. They’ll play Australia on Aug. 16 and 17 and New Zealand twice (Aug. 20-21). They wrap up their exhibition schedule Aug. 26 versus the U.S..

They tip off the World Cup on Sept. 1 versus Australia in Dongguan, China. With a top-eight showing, they would play right up until Sept. 14 or 15 — a couple of weeks before NBA teams open training camps.

The World Cup has huge ramifications for the national program, as the top seven finishers qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Teams who don’t qualify are relegated to last-chance qualifying tournaments next summer.

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