The hopes of Nigeria’s men basketball team, D’Tigers qualifying for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games has been extinguished.
After losing on Monday against Senegal at the ongoing FIBA men’s pre-Olympic qualifiers at the Eko Convention Centre in Lagos, D’Tigers needed an outright victory against Mali to stay in contention in their outing on Tuesday.
Unfortunately, the Nigerian men couldn’t hold on for victory against Mali as they crumbled 68-77 against their more illustrious West African neighbours.
The loss proved costly as it meant Nigeria will not be making an appearance at the Games coming up next year in Paris, France.
Before now, D’Tigers had failed in their quest for qualification for the FIBA World Cup.
The signs of a possible bad day at the office was evident with the delay in action due to technical problems at the Eko Convention Centre.
Notwithstanding, the team led by Ogoh Odaudu began the game against Mali well, as D’Tigers raced to a 17-15 lead after the first quarter.
The second quarter followed in the same impressive fashion, as the 2015 Afrobasket champions took a 26-23 lead to head into halftime up by five points.
Many were happy seeing D’Tigers press on to also win third quarter 18-15 but for inexplicable reasons, D’Tigers capitulated in the fourth quarter as Mali simply tore the Nigerian aside.
Mali went on a 16-0 run in the final quarter, silencing the roaring crowd inside the arena.
Though Nigeria made a three-point shot to momentarily break the Malians terrific run, it couldn’t disrupt their flow.
The Malians replied immediately with a three-point shot of theirs and eventually won the quarter 24-7.
Uche Iroegbu was the star man for D’Tigers once again with his game high 26 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. Daniel Utomi also did well; getting 16 points, while Phoenix Suns star Chimezie Metu contributed just seven points.
Hassan Drame and Fousseyni Drame both got 14 points and two steals apiece for Mali, with the latter capping off an impressive performance with 10 rebounds to complete his double-double.
With back-to-back losses, Nigeria sits bottom of Group A with two points, while Mali tops the group level on points with Senegal but with a better point difference.
Senegal will be up against Mali on Thursday to decide who finishes atop the standings.
Earlier on Tuesday, Cameroon were ruthless against Guinea; beating them 104-74 to sit comfortably at the top of Group B .
The Central Africans in a battle Royale will play three-time and reigning Afrobasket champion Tunisia on Wednesday.
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