By Joe Apu
AfroBasket 2015 champions, D’Tigers rounded off its 2021 FIBA Afrobasket championship qualifiers with a big 76-56 points win over Mali who struggled to cope with the offensive firepower of the team capped by team captain Ike Diogu
The win which saw the team finishing strong atop group D on a 6-0 run was spearheaded by Nigerian basketball legend, Ike Diogu who posted a double-double performance with 20pts and 11 assists.
With a 42.9 field goal percentage and 3 made treys from 7 attempted shots, Diogu ensured a smooth victory for the team whose immediate focus will be the 2020 Olympics and Afrobasket preparations.
After back-to-back struggles against South Sudan and Rwanda, basketball fans across the continent saw a different team who extended its unbeaten run in competitive games to 9.
The team mindful of the task ahead came out smoking with Ike Iroegbu and Mike Gbinije leading the offensive in the opening minutes as they raced to a 24-7 lead.
Michael Gbinije ended with 10pts, 5 rebounds and 2 steals as Keith Omoerah continued his rich form in the national colors with 10pts, 4rebs and 3steals on a day that all 10 players who stepped on court scored at least a point.
The number one team in Africa were way better as they out rebounded their opponents 48-39, scoring 15pts from turnovers as against 14 by the Malians.
The team scored 16 fast break points, Mali only managed 7 while the Tokyo 2020 Olympics bound team sank 18 second chance points to cap off an impressive win.
Nigeria topped group B with 12 maximum points. New entrants, South Sudan finished second, Mali third and the host of the 2021 Afrobasket- Rwanda finished bottom of the group.
Speaking on the team’s performance, President of the Nigeria Basketball Federation, Ahmadu Musa Kida commended the players for maintain an unbeaten run throughout the qualifiers but noted that more needs to be done ahead of the final round and the Olympic Games.
“It’s great that we finished the qualifiers in Tunisia on a very strong note. However, going forward we need to be stronger and fight better given the opposition ahead of us at the final round in Kigali and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.”