Emerging Boomers squeeze past Canada for ninth
Australia has finished ninth at the 2017 World University Games after out-gunning Canada 98-95 in a high-scoring tournament finale.
Dejan Vasiljevic capped off the tournament with yet another game-high scoring performance, racking up 28 points on 9-of-15 shooting that included four three-pointers and 15 points in the opening term. Forward Xavier Cooks was also in outstanding form, piling on 20 points (8-of-15 FG) with 6 rebounds and 4 blocked shots.
In a fast-paced opening term, both teams cranked up the heat with some scintillating shooting. Canada scored the first 5 points of the contest before Gorjok Gak got the Australian's on the scoreboard, following his own miss with a put-back, and then repeating the process two possessions later. Canada were on fire, missing just four shots in the first 7 minutes and would lead by 8 points at one stage. Xavier Cooks was having a big impact for the Uniroos, piling on 9 points for the term before Vasiljevic then scored his first trey of the game to keep the Australian's within touch.
With Cooks scoring his twelfth points of the period, Vasiljevic then took over. He would go on to score 15 points in the last 4:29 of the period which would be capped by a Rhys Vague bucket late to edge to within 2 points. Yet Canada hit their fifth triple of the quarter to go up 40-35 at the first break.
Tanner Krebs scored first in the second, before both teams faced a scoring drought across the next three minutes of play. Two straight three-pointers to Kyle Adnam saw the Emerging Boomers steal the lead momentarily. Late in the half, Emmett Naar and Cooks would combine to keep the pressure on Canada, who managed to hold onto the smallest of leads 54-53 at half time.
The third period was like watching a classic title fight, with both teams landing big blows only for the other the get back up and fight back. Cooks stole the lead early, only to see the Canadian's return the favour. When Jack McVeigh landed his first score of the game from beyond the arc, he would form a scoring duo with Vasiljevic to open up an 8 point advantage. Gak was doing a mountain of work at both ends, keeping the scoreboard ticking over. A Kaza Kajami Keane three-pointer saw Canada tie things back up and then go ahead on his 22nd points with just over 2 minutes left in the period. Free throws to Vasiljevic put Australia back up by 2 in the dying moments of the quarter, before Canada scored again to head into the final break with the scored locked at 79-all.
In a classic final period which saw 6 lead changes and the scores locked 4 times, Australia landed the killer blow late when Vasiljevic found McVeigh open for three to take back the lead for good with 1:14 to play. Gak would them come up big in the last-minute. He pulled down the defensive rebound at one end on a Canada three-ball miss, and then followed up a Cooks miss at the other end to follow-up with the score to put his country ahead by three. Canada would not get another shot up as the Emerging Boomers edged ahead at the right time to win 98-95.
In what proved to be a tight battle, Vasiljevic and Cooks were two of four Australian's scoring in double figures. Gak had another great outing with 14 points (7-of-9 FG) and 8 rebounds, while McVeigh would also finish with 14 points and 4 rebounds.
Australia managed to withstand Canada's 13-of-26 three-point shooting by through scoring 10-of-13 from the free throw line, shooting better than 50% from inside the arc, and blocking 8 shots.
In finishing ninth, the Emerging Boomers improved by one placing over their 2013 campaign in which they managed tenth placing. Australia's losses to Ukraine and Israel cost the Emerging Boomers a quarterfinal berth. They were the only team to defeat gold medalists Lithuania.
Australia 98: Vasiljevic 28, Cooks 20, Gak 14, McVeigh 14 Canada 95: Kajami Kean 25, Bercy 21, Wood 20, Jensen 13
Emerging Boomers Schedule (all times AEST)
Pool D August 20: Australia lost to Ukraine 76-80 August 21: Australia defeated Lithuania 84-82 August 23: Australia lost to Israel 72-89 August 24: Australia defeated Russia 89-71 August 25: Australia defeated Mozambique 87-58 August 27: Classification 9-16 – Australia defeated Estonia 105-93 August 28: Classification 9-12 – Australia defeated Mexico 93-71 August 29: Classification 9-10 – Australia defeated Canada 98-95