September 21, 2000

Candian Olympic Hoops Team Defeats Spain

Sept. 21, 2000

SYDNEY, Australia - (CP) Canada trounced Spain 91-77 Thursday to clinch at least third spot in Group B of the Olympic men's basketball tournament, avoiding a quarter-final date with the U.S. Dream Team in the process.

Micheal Meeks of Brampton, Ont., led Canada with 24 points, while Peter Guarasci of Niagara Falls, Ont., added 17.

Meeks was 8-for-8 from the field, including four three-pointers. He was also perfect at the free throw line against Spain, making four foul shots.

''That's cool,'' he said when told he didn't miss a shot. ''I can't ever remember having a perfect game.''

Meeks, who played at Canisius, had 27 points in Canada's opening win over Australia.

Former Santa Clara star Steve Nash of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks continued to be the catalyst for Canada's offence, controlling the tempo of the game and finding the open man for open looks at the basket.

Nash had seven points and five assists.

Canada has been perfect in its first Olympic appearance since 1988, when current coach Jay Triano was a starting guard.

''I've told them how disappointing that was,'' he said of the sixth-place finish in Seoul.

''They haven't got caught up in the Olympic experience, they are focusing on this tournament. They have not gone to another event. They said they can go to another Olympics to watch.'' Canada led 53-34 at halftime and was up by as much as 72-45. Canada shot 61.5 per cent from the field (32 for 52), including 10 for 19 from three-point range.

John Rogers had 15 points for Spain (1-2).

Canada, the surprise story of the tournament in its return to the Olympics after a 12-year absence, improved to 3-0 after earlier wins over host Australia and lowly Angola. The Canadians are attempting to win a medal in men's basketball for the first time since a silver was won at the 1936 Berlin Games.

The top four teams from each group advance to the quarter-finals and cross over for their next games, with the first-place team playing the fourth-place team in the other group and second against third.

With the U.S. a lock to win Group A, a third-place finish by Canada in Group B means the Canadians wouldn't have to face the Americans until the gold medal final. The Canadians finish off their round-robin with difficult games against Russia on Saturday and Yugoslavia on Monday.

Canada took the early lead and never looked back Thursday.

The Canadians shot the lights out, hitting three-pointers at will, including one by seldom-used backup point guard David Daniels of Fort St. John, B.C.

This should have been a closer game. Spain, now 1-2 after an earlier loss to Russia, is an experienced team stocked with European club veterans. The Spaniards won the silver medal at the 1999 European championships and were fifth at the 1998 world championship in Athens, the same tournament Canada placed 12th and later fired head coach Steve Konchalski.

Jay Triano has worked Canada hard in its buildup to the Games, participating in the four-nation Slam Downunder in Sydney in June, the L.A. Summer League, a three-game series against Brazil and the six-country Diamond Ball tournament in Hong Kong.