A fearless and combative Egypt sent a statement out on Friday after beating the reigning African champions Tunisia in front of their home crowd.
The 67-61 victory not only helped Egypt improve their FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 African Qualifiers record to 6-1, but it also ended Tunisia’s unbeaten home run (15-0).
Tunisia’s last home loss had happened on August 29, 2015 in the Semi-Finals of the African Championship against Angola.
Ehab Amin came up ready to play and he delivered when the Pharaohs needed him most. The Al Ahly guard scored nine of his team-high 18 points from behind the arc while Assem Marei provided a huge support in the paint.
Marei’s aggressiveness on both ends of the floor proved costly for Tunisia, who seemed helpless to contest his 15 points and 13 rebounds.
Despite trailing by 12 in the opening quarter, Egypt never panicked. They even silenced the Mohamed Mzali arena when Tunisia tried to gain momentum. The 33-all score at half-time reflected Egypt’s tenacity and self-belief.
Salah Mejri was a one-man show for Tunisia early, but his second technical foul early in the third hurt Tunisia deeply.
Despite an early exit of the game, Mejri finished with a game-high 19 points while grabbing a team-high 9 rebounds.
Omar Abada and Makram Ben Romdhane combined for 21 Tunisian points, but they were unable to protect Tunisia’s home unbeaten run, which ended after seven years.
Salah Mejri was the heart-and-soul of Tunisia for most of the 18:37 minutes he spent on the floor, but his second technical foul for disagreeing a referee’s decision proved costly for the reigning African champions.
With Egypt up by four (38-34) when Mejri was ejected, Tunisia struggled to recover while Egypt embarked on a 60-47 lead (their largest advantage in the game)
Ehab Amin opened the score with three-pointer, which was followed up by an Assem Marei’s floater (5-0). Amin’s aggressiveness earned him the “Man of the Game” recognition.
STATS DON’T LIE:
Trailing by double digits (54-43) heading to the fourth quarter wasn’t a good sign, but turning the ball over five times in the such a critical moment of the game proved lethal for Tunisia who finished with 14 turnovers.
“One down, two more to go,” screamed Ehab Amin on his way to the post-game press conference. That’s how bad Egypt want to stay in contention for a place in next year’s World Cup.
The Egyptians suffered for the most part of the game, but their winning and combative mindset was the biggest difference in this important win over the African champions.
“Classic. Great win for us in a pretty tough place to win. I think our guys showed great toughness – both physically and mentally to battle it out. Ehab was tremendous. Our best players showed up. We’ll take this win and great ready for tomorrow. We’re not going to get too high, we’re not going to get too low. We’re just going to get ready for the next game.” – Egypt Head Coach Roy Rana.
“They are a very experienced team. They’ve been together for almost 10 plus years. They played together in the Olympics, two FIBA World Cups, a lot of FIBA AfroBaskets. So they know each other well. They have the same head coach for a long, long time. Coach Roy told us to stay the course and if they got high, don’t get too low and also not get too excited. The game is 40 minutes. That’s what we did when they got up on us.” – Egypt guard Ehab Amin.
“We were pissed off. We had a big opportunity. We lost the game. We fought hard. It hurts when you lose a game, but that’s basketball, that’s sports. Everybody gave it their all. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, but we’re mad.” – Tunisia shooting guard Michael Roll.
“In the third quarter, for the most part without Salah, was difficult and it really hurt us. We regrouped and I thought the guys did a great job of fighting back and putting themselves in a position to win. And then it was just a couple of plays – one way or the other that made the difference. At the end of the day we lost by six but again, I thought our guys fought. I thought they gave everything they had and so we just need to get this one out of our system because we have another really important game in 24 hours against Senegal and I am totally convinced that our players will respond the way a champion does.” -Tunisia Head Coach Dick Bauermann.