Venezuela earns Rio berth off poor Canadian effort

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Canada had been clear and away the best team at FIBA Americas — after an opening-game loss to Argentina, the young squad had easily handled the competition, winning seven in a row by at least 17 points. That included beating Venezuela by 20.

But with a berth in the Rio Olympics next year on the line Friday, Canada played its worst game of the tournament.

Venezuela came from seven points down with less than three minutes to go — aided by a questionable foul call on a rebound that gave Venezuela the free throw to win it — and beat Canada 79-78.

With the win, Venezuela earns a berth in the 2016 Rio Olympics, the first for the South American nation since 1992.

Canada had nine NBA players on their roster, Venezuela had zero (they were without Greivis Vasquez all tournament).

Boston’s Kelly Olynyk was the best player on the court, scoring 34 points on 11-of-13 shooting, plus pulling down 13 rebounds. Andrew Wiggins struggled, scoring nine points on 4-of-11 shooting.

Canada led 75-68 with three minutes left when Venezuelan guard Heissler Guillent caught fire. He hit two threes, cutting the Canadian lead down to one. On the next possession, Olynyk fumbled the ball out by midcourt and fouled Guillent in the scramble to recover it.  Guillent hit two free throws putting Venezuela up by one. Canada’s Andrew Nicholson was fouled soon after and hit one-of-two free throws to tie the game.

With everything on the line, Venezuela tried to isolate Guillent on Cory Joseph (a good defender). He settled for a three that he missed but going for the rebound Canada’s Aaron Doornekamp was called for a questionable foul on Jose Vargas with 0.3 left on the clock. That sent Vargas to the line with a chance to win it — he hit the first free throw and intentionally missed the second, ending the game.

While the call will be what everyone talks about, that is not what cost Canada the game. Look at the 17 Canadian turnovers, or the 5-of-17 shooting from three. They had the talent to run away with this game. That said, credit Venezuela for being feisty and hanging around.