In their first tune-up game towards the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Nigeria’s men’s national basketball team, D’Tigers, sounded a note of warning to their Group B adversaries with a 90-87 win over a star-studded U.S. team.
Nine years after an 83-point loss to the USA at the 2012 London Olympics, the Tokyo-bound Nigerian team, under the tutelage of Mike Brown, again pitted their wits against a USA team who are angling for a fifth consecutive gold medal. But this time, they got a first-ever win over the USA.
The five that started for the D’Tigers were Precious Achiuwa, Josh Okogie, Gabe Vincent, Ike Nwamu, and Chikezie ‘KZ’ Okpala. The USA team missing three players in the NBA finals started with Bam Adebayo, Damian Lillard, Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal, and Jayson Tatum, coached by Gregg Popovich.
Adebayo got the first basket of the match and Vincent replied with his first three-pointer of the game. The first half swung in both directions but the first half ended 43-41 with the USA ahead but the highlight of the half was a block on Durant by Achiuwa as the Brooklyn Nets forward powered to the rim. It was D’Tigers shot making from three-point range that helped get the win. The team outscored the Americans 20-18.
Vincent, the Miami Heat guard, made six of eight three-pointers and finished with 21 points while Agada, who plays in the Israeli league, made three three-pointers and finished with 17 points. Vincent, it was who gave D’Tigers the three-point lead with three seconds left on the clock, at which point Coach Brown called for a time-out.
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Jerry Colangelo, the managing director of USA basketball for the last 16 years, said at the halftime interview, “Nigeria has come a long way. They can all shoot the ball pretty damn well. They are aggressive and they are playing really well, and that is a tribute to them.”
Nigeria will seek to take this form to Tokyo where they will play Italy, Germany and Australia in Group B. The D’Tigers, the lowest FIBA-ranked team in their group, tip off their third consecutive Olympic Games appearance against Australia, FIBA-ranked No.3, at the Saitama Super Arena on July 25.
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