Nigeria won their first game of the 2023 FIBA AfroCan against Mali on Sunday with a 62-56 scoreline at the Pavilhão Multiusos de Luanda in Angola, PUNCH Sports Extra reports.
D’Tigers missed automatic qualification for the championship after losing their last game to hosts Ivory Coast 74-65, in the combined FIBA Africa Zone 2 and 3 qualifiers in Abidjan last week. They had lost 65-62 to Guinea in their opening game of the qualifiers but bounced back against Benin Republic with an emphatic 78-51 win in their second game.
For finishing second in the qualifiers, FIBA gave the final wildcard to Nigeria.
However, Ogoh Odaudu’s side at the tournament proper on Sunday began the campaign in good form.
The team took an early lead and never let their guard down as they ended the first quarter 20-9.
They were however a bit complacent at the start of the second quarter allowing Mali a 7-0 run to cut the gap to four points.
D’Tigers picked up the slacks and managed to pick up 10 points in the second quarter to see the first half finish 30-22 in favour of the 2021 AfroBasket winners.
It was an evenly matched encounter between the two West Africans in the third quarter of the game.
The Malians started the brighter side, forcing Odaudu to call for timeout.
And Nigeria performed better in the last two minutes of the game to pick up points and maintain their lead as the quarter ended 48-39.
The Malians showed more resilience in the final quarter, forcing the Nigerians to turn the ball over. And D’Tigers almost blew a 10-point lead away with the score 60-53 with 44 seconds on the clock.
The team managed to hang on to their lead as the full time ended 62-56.
With Sunday’s win, Nigeria surpassed their record at the 2019 FIBA AfroCan, where they played three games and lost all three.
D’Tigers will next face hosts, Angola, at the Pavilhao Multiusos de Luanda in their second game on Monday (today).