By Our Correspondent
The D’Tigers of Nigeria on Tuesday lost their second straight game of the 2024 Africa FIBA men’s pre-Olympic qualifiers at the Eko Convention Centre in Lagos and subsequently missed out on a place in the Games coming up next year in Paris, France.
Nigeria, who lost to Senegal in their first group game and needed a win to keep hopes of qualification alive, couldn’t hold on for victory against Mali as they fell 68-77 to their West African neighbours.
Albeit the delay in action due to technical problems at the Eko Convention Centre, the team led by Ogoh Odaudu began the game well, racing to a 17-15 lead after the first quarter. The second quarter followed in the same fashion, as the 2015 Afrobasket champions took a 26-23 lead to head into halftime up by five points.
Despite Nigeria’s 18-15 win in the third quarter, the fourth quarter was disastrous for the hosts, who had no answers for their opponent. Mali went on a 16-0 run in the final quarter, silencing the roaring crowd inside the arena. Nigeria made a three-point shot to break the Malians terrific run, but the West Africans looked unbothered as they replied immediately with a three-point shot of their own and eventually won the quarter 24-7.
Uche Iroegbu once again led all scorers with 26 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. Daniel Utomi got 16 points, while Phoenix Suns star Chimezie Metu settled for just seven points.
Hassan Drame and Fousseyni Drame both got 14 points and two steals apiece for Mali, with the latter capping off an impressive performance with 10 rebounds to complete his double-double. Ibrahim Djambo added 12 points, while Mahamadou Kante got 10 points and six rebounds, as four of Mali’s five starters finished with double-digit points.
Nigeria sits bottom of Group A with two points, while Mali tops the group level on points with Senegal but with a better point difference. The Teranga Lions will face Mali on Thursday to decide who finishes atop the standings.
Earlier in the day, Cameroon obliterated Guinea 104-74 to sit comfortably at the top of Group B with two points thanks to Fabian Quentin Ateba’s 27-point display. The Central Africans will play three-time and reigning Afrobasket champion Tunisia on Wednesday.