The 2015 FIBA Afrobasket Championship kicked off in Rades, Tunisia, on Wednesday, and the Nigeria national basketball team, D’Tigers started their campaign to qualify for the 2016 Olympics with an 88-63 victory over the Central African Republic.
The team was led in scoring by Al-Farouq Aminu and Olaseni Lawal, who shared 29 points between them. Lawal also got 14 rebounds with his 14 points.
The CAR won the tip off and got the first basket though the D’Tigers replied quickly with a basket of their own. Al-Farouq, playing with his brother, Alade, got the first dunk – an alley-hoop off a pass from Olaseni Lawal to take the scores to 9-3, at which point CAR called a time out.
On resumption, Al-Farouq was penalized for two fouls and was substituted. The first quarter ended with the Nigerians edging CAR 16-12.
In the second quarter, the CAR were very aggressive and went ahead 29-27 at one point after a bit of scuffle and with the Nigerians clearly rattled.
But Al-Farouq and Oguchi responded for the Nigerians. Oguchi made back-to-back three-pointers to end the quarter 49-35.
The second half went the same way with D’Tigers dominant on the boards, with 51 against the 24 for the CAR though they wasted too many of their free throws – making just 59 per cent.
The third quarter ended with the Nigerians extending their advantage by one point with CAR’s Destin Damoucha playing out of his skin to get his team closer.
In the fourth quarter, the coach gave minutes to Ogide and Oyedeji and they got 12 and six points respectively to help their team over the line.
Their next match is against Uganda on Friday though injured forward, Ike Diogu is not expected to have made full recovery.
Having registered a dominant performance in their opening game, It remains to be seen if Nigeria – often seen as one of Africa’s countries with the most basketball talent – will win their first-ever AfroBasket title.
Over the course of the past 20 years, Nigeria accomplished three second-places (1997, 1999 and 2003) as well as three third-places (1995, 2005 and 2011), making this year’s AfroBasket an opportunity to write a new chapter in their basketball history.