Coach Ogoh Odaudu said he has advised his players to stay hungry as they try to snag a ticket to the 2023 World Cup, scheduled for 25 August through September 10 in Japan, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
He revealed this after the narrow 72–63 win over Cote d’Ivoire at the Pavilhao Multiusos de Luanda in Angola on Friday.
Victor Ezeh led the Nigerian team to victory with 18 points and six rebounds. Israel Otobo added 13 points, and Kanyisola Odufuwa scored 12 points, and D’Tigers won three of the four quarters.
They won the first quarter by just one point, 16–15; lost the second, 14-19, but bounced back in the third with a 23-14 win before capping it up in the fourth with a 19-15 win.
This was Cote d’Ivoire’s first loss in eight matches, and it gives the Nigerian team the impetus to push for the second spot in Group E.
Coach Odaudu said, “First games are always difficult. This was a difficult game for us and we had to play catchup for most of the game. Late in the third and early in the fourth, we got our rhythm back and took the lead, and we never looked back.”
Ezeh, representing Nigeria for the first time at this level, added, “The first five minutes, I was really tense, but as the game went on, it got better. At first, I was struggling on offence, but I took it upon myself to be good on defence, by picking up their No. 10 and try to slow him down.”
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Coach Odaudu revealed at the post-match press conference that he has advised his local-based players to ‘stay hungry’. “My message to them is to stay hungry. We don’t want this to get into our heads; we don’t want this to be all that we came here for-just one game at a time. I think the group can do a lot better than what we did today.
“I can also confirm we didn’t play the best basketball we know we can play, so I am going to tell them to stay hungry, stay focused, stay relaxed, and let’s take it one game at a time.”
Despite the win, the D’Tigers still sit fourth in Group E, with two matches against Guinea and Angola to come on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Cote d’Ivoire are through in first place with 15 points, followed by Angola in second with 14 points, Cape Verde with 13, and the Nigerian team in fourth place with 12 points.
According to the FIBA website, “the teams that finish first and second in Groups E and F, plus the best third-placed team, secure the five spots on offer for African countries for the World Cup.”
Angola will clash with Cape Verde on Saturday after the D’Tigers play Guinea, and the best scenario for the Nigerian team would be a win for Cape Verde, assuming they get a victory over Guinea.
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