D’Tigers dream of qualifying for next year’s basketball event of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan remained on course following Nigeria’s 108-66 points defeat of South Korea at the ongoing FIBA World Cup in China.
Nigeria finished third in Group B yesterday to drop out for the classification battles in Guangzhou.
D’Tigers’ first game at the City Arena in Guangzhou is against Cote D’Ivoire on Friday at 9:00am Nigerian time. Nigeria’s other game is against China on Sunday.
The victory against Korea yesterday would have been meaningless if Tunisia with a one win against Iran had succeeded against Puerto Rico. The North Africans lost 67-64 against Puerto Rico to give Nigeria a lifeline in the race to grabbing the sole ticket for the continent.
Despite Nigeria missing out of podium placement at the World Cup, the classification games in Round 17-32 will determine which country qualifies for China amongst the five African teams at the tournament.
In the crucial game against the Koreans yesterday, Nigeria shot to the lead seconds to the end of first quarter courtesy of a last gasp two points layup from Ike Iroegbu to win the quarter, 17-15 points.
The second quarter also ended in similar fashion as D’Tigers extended their lead to 18 points to end the first half 49-31 points.
Michael Eric was the top performer of the night with 17 points and 9 rebounds to lead Nigeria’s 42-point win which became the highest point margin against a non-African opponent.
Captain Ike Diogu also put in a sterling performance with 16 points and 6 rebounds while Chimezie Metu with 15 points was the highest rebounder of the day with 9.
Speaking at the post-match conference, Head Coach, Alex Nwora said finally getting the win and getting their 2020 Olympics qualification back on track was comforting.
“Korea was good, but we were taller and we used that to our advantage. On the court, our tactics worked out well and I must commend my players for a job well done,” the coach stressed.
With mixed feelings, Nwora said, “We didn’t come to the World Cup just to fight for the Olympics ticket. We came with the mindset of a podium finish, but sadly we could not achieve this. We are happy to be back in the race for the Olympics.”
The coach said the lessons have been learnt as attention has now shifted to the classification games to be decided in Guangzhou.
DAY FIVE SCORES
Italy 77-92 Serbia
Spain 73-65 Iran
Russia 61-69 Argentina
Ivory Coast 63-80 Poland
S’Korea 66-108 Nigeria
Angola 84-81 Philippines (OT)
Venezuela 72-59 China
Puerto Rico 67-64 Tunisia