TORONTO — Step-back 3-pointers with the clock winding down. Key assists in crunch time. A block to ensure at least overtime. Jamal Murray even grabbed the game-clinching rebound.
You name it, Murray did it in leading the Canadian National Team to the championship game of the Pan American Games in Toronto. The Kentucky signee made seemingly every clutch play down the stretch in Canada’s thrilling 111-108 overtime victory over the United States in the semifinals of the Pan Am Games on Friday.
The UK signee scored all 22 of his points in the fourth quarter and was undeniably vital in leading Canada to the Pan Am finals. Canada ultimately lost to Brazil in the gold medal game, 86-71, Saturday.
“I couldn’t be more proud of Jamal’s performance,” Kentucky head coach John Calipari said. “For someone his age to do what he did shows how good he is and why we wanted him in the worst way to be on this team.”
Leadership, fearlessness and a never-say-die attitude were just a few of the qualities that made Murray so attractive to Kentucky, all three of which were on display Friday night on a national stage.
Murray shocked the United States with an all-around dizzying display. He made 8 of 18 shots, including 4 of 8 from 3-point range. The future Wildcat, who will enroll at UK in the fall, entered the fourth quarter scoreless but ended the game with 22 points.
No matter what the Canadians did in Saturday’s championship game, Murray had already led Canada to its best-ever finish at the Pan Am Games.
“It means everything to be out here,” Murray said after the game on ESPN2. “Playing on the two highest stages (for Canada and Kentucky) at this age is just incredible. To have my great teammates and amazing NBA coaches aside me along the way is a learning experience for me.”
Trailing in the fourth quarter, Murray reeled off nine of 11 points for Canada to give the Canadians the lead and set the stage for a dramatic finish. In overtime, trailing by one with less than two minutes remaining, Murray scored eight straight points, including a step-back 3-pointer.
But Murray’s point production only told half the story. He also dished out a team-high six assists and four rebounds, most of which seemed to come at the most important times.
Among the highlights for Murray was a block at the end of regulation that ensured Canada would do no worse than go to overtime. He also grabbed the game-clinching rebound.
Against some of the world’s best players from North, South and Central America, Murray has averaged 17.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists while shooting 51.0 percent from the floor in four wins.