Nigeria’s aspirations for a spot in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games have been dashed, as their men’s basketball team, D’Tigers, faced a disappointing defeat. The team suffered consecutive losses, first against Senegal and then Mali, during the ongoing FIBA men’s pre-Olympic qualifiers at the Eko Convention Centre in Lagos.
The initial blow came on Monday when D’Tigers were unable to secure a victory against Senegal, diminishing their chances of progressing. A pivotal match against Mali followed on Tuesday, where Nigeria needed a triumph to keep their Olympic dreams alive.
Despite a promising start against Mali, with D’Tigers leading 17-15 after the first quarter, their momentum waned. The team, which had shown strength in the second quarter by maintaining a 26-23 lead at halftime, faltered as Mali took control.
In a dramatic final quarter, Mali’s relentless offensive prowess proved insurmountable for D’Tigers. A 16-0 run by Mali sealed Nigeria’s fate, extinguishing any hopes of an Olympic appearance. Even a late three-point shot from Nigeria couldn’t halt Mali’s surge, as they went on to secure a convincing 77-68 victory.
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Uche Iroegbu emerged as a standout performer for D’Tigers once again, accumulating an impressive 26 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. Daniel Utomi contributed 16 points, while Chimezie Metu, a star from the Phoenix Suns, managed only seven points.
Mali’s Hassan Drame and Fousseyni Drame both played instrumental roles in their team’s victory, each scoring 14 points and recording two steals. Fousseyni Drame achieved a double-double by adding 10 rebounds to his impressive performance.
With back-to-back losses, Nigeria found themselves at the bottom of Group A with just two points. In contrast, Mali claimed a top position in the group, level on points with Senegal but holding a superior point difference.
The standings will soon see further clarification as Senegal and Mali clash on Thursday, determining the group leader. Meanwhile, Cameroon established a strong presence in Group B by securing a decisive 104-74 victory over Guinea earlier on Tuesday. This win propelled Cameroon to the top of their group, showcasing their dominance in the pre-Olympic qualifiers.