Title contenders Nigeria and Senegal on Wednesday opened their FIBA AfroBasket 2021 campaigns with authority.
In Group’s D only game of the day – following Cameroon’s forfeit – Senegal established the largest winning margin in the tournament so far – after Tunisia’s 82-46 win over over Guinea – after demolishing Uganda 93-55.
It was Senegal’s second big win over Uganda after their 79-48 win back in 2015 in Tunisia.
Gorgui Dieng played the role of an inspirational figure for Senegal making his presence felt at both of the floor to finish with team-best 19 points and eight rebounds.
FC Barcelona product Brancou Badio reminded everyone why he has a future with this Senegalese team by finishing 3-of-5 from beyond the arc to go with 17 points, six rebounds and six assists.
In a game that dependable Ishmail Wainright was a non-show, Adam Seiko, the only Ugandan to score double digits, took over Uganda’s offense, finishing team-best 12 points.
Uganda head coach George Galanopoulos later admitted that his team was “Not well prepared. I don’t think I helped them make adjustments at the right time and during the game. Offensively, we weren’t moving the ball. 17 assists, 24 turnovers is not the numbers we want. ” he said.
The 81-73 scoreline in Nigeria’s win over Mali doesn’t really reflect the former African champions’ dominance for most of the contest.
D’Tigers, as the team is known, led by as many as 22 points, and remained in control of the game from start to finish.
For a team that worked with only eight players during their preparations for this year’s AfroBasket, setting a tournament record for most three-point made was a clear statement of their offensive options.
Benjamin Anyahukeya Emelogu converted 6 of his 10 three-point attempts, Uzodinma Utomi was 5-for-10 from beyond the arc to help Nigeria finish with 18 three-points made.
Given the historic between these two teams in recent times – Nigeria are 6-0 in head-to-head against Mali backing date to the AfroBasket 2013 – Malians could have done better, instead, they only showed some signs of resurgence in the last four minutes of the game when the outcome was mostly determined.
With the win, Nigeria share the top of Group C alongside Cote d’Ivoire who needed to step up in the last quarter to get away with a 88-70 triumph against a fearless and combative Kenyan team.
Matt Costello (Cote d’Ivoire)
Even though Kenya trailed by more than a dozen points early in the game, Team Morans managed to tie the contest at 39-39 at the break, leaving the ‘Elephants’ of Cote d’Ivoire wondering how to get away with a win against a lower-ranked team that returned to the tournament for the first time in almost three decades.
Former NBA player Matt Costello made his Cote d’Ivoire debut with team-highs 20 points and eight rebounds and three other Ivorians – including 41-year-old Stephane Konate – scored eleven points or more each.
“Ivory Coast put a lot of pressure on us and we couldn’t handle it. We turned the ball over 20 times, that’s what the determined the game,” said Tylor Ongwae who finished with a game-high 25 points.
The only Kenyan to score in double digits went on saying: “I played well, but it doesn’t matter if we lose the game. Next, I think my teammates will come up and our confidence will be up.”
Kenya head coach Liz Mills looked defiant in the post-game press conference: “I actually don’t think Cote d’Ivoire beat us, we beat ourselves. We were in it for 35 minutes,” she said.