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D’Tigers Narrowly Squeeze Past Mali 72-70 For First Win At FIBA World Cup Qualifiers

D'Tigers
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November 27, (THEWILL) – Nigeria came perilously close to a second consecutive loss in the Africa Qualifiers for the 2023 FIBA World Cup against Mali on Saturday, winning 72-70 to keep hopes of qualification alive.

Jordan Ogundiran and Chris Obekpa came to the rescue of D’Tigers to salvage the situation for the former champions. A day after losing to Cape Verde in the opening game of Group A, Nigeria appeared out of sorts for most of the game against Mali, with the Malians even holding a 12-point lead at one point.

Ogundiran, who missed the first game and was only able to join the squad hours before D’Tigers took on Mali, finished with 5-of-10 from the field for a team-high 19 points off the bench.

Similarly, Ike Diogu finished with 19 points after hitting four of his six three-point attempts and being on the court for all of 36 minutes. Ben Uzoh, the other Nigerian in double digits, finished with 11 points and a game-high seven assists.

Although, on the Malian side, Ibrahima Sidibe had a team-high 17 points on 8-for-11 shooting, Mali fell to one win and one loss before facing Cape Verde, who beat D’Tigers in the first group game, on Sunday.

Ogundiran’s four-point play with 38 seconds remaining gave Nigeria the lead that earned victory for D’Tigers. Mali called a timeout, ran the shot clock, and as N’faly Kanouté drove to the hoop [perhaps to draw a foul], Chris Obekpa stayed still to block Mali’s effort to shift the game’s course.

There is no doubt that Ogundiran and Obekpa played a significant role in the victory and saved Nigeria from another defeat, but Ike Diogu’s leadership and experience were crucial for D’Tigers when it mattered the most as they did enough to keep their World Cup qualifiers campaign on track.

Julius Nwosu, the Nigerian coach, stated in post-match remarks, that his team never panicked because they were conscious of the national team’s prestige, which they needed to safeguard.

Ogundiran concurred with Nwosu, insisting that they were confident in their ability to elevate their level of play at vital stages of the game to eventually take victory and prevent a fourth straight loss on the continent for the senior men’s basketball team.