By Emmanuel Okogba
Nigeria’s D’Tigers began its Afrobasket 2021 with a 81-73 win loss over Mali on Wednesday at the Kigali Arena in Rwanda.
After storming to a 28-12 first quarter lead, D’Tigers allowed the Malians come back in the second quarter and reduced the lead to just one point at half-time. The second quarter ended 16-31 in favour of Mali and an overall score of 44-43 for Nigeria.
The 2015 winners rediscovered the first quarter momentum in the third and were 17 points better than their West Africa neighbors finishing 27-10 but then shrunk into their shells in the fourth quarter losing 10-20 to make it a game of two halves.
Coach Michael Brown speaking after the game appreciated the depth of Nigeria’s basketball team as the Kigali contingent consists majorly of players who were not in the Tokyo 2020 squad.
He explained that the team had an on-off performance during the game because it was the first time they were playing with opponents in front of them since they started camping for the tournament.
“This is the first time our guys have had contact because when we started training camp we had just 8 guys so we couldn’t play 5-on-5”, Brown said in the post-game interview.
He said moving forward the team will work on taking care of the ball more and committing less fouls.
“When we got here the new guys were so far behind so we couldn’t play 5-on-5. This is the first time that our team has seen somebody else in front of them. There were times they got tired and when they got tired they got really sloppy offensively and had lots of turnovers and they got really tired defensively.
Team captain, Stephen George Domingo who is participating in Afrobasket for the first time said there’s room for improvement heading into the next game.
Benjamin Emelogu led the scoring for D’Tigers with 18 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists.
D’Tigers will next play Kenya on Friday in Group C that also has Cote D’Ivoire.
Nigeria finished in second place when the competition last held in 2017.