Nigeria’s male basketball team, D’Tigers has begun its battles with perennial foes, Uganda, Mali and Rwanda to clinch the ticket for the 2019 FIBA World Championship in China.
The team on Friday began their quest for qualification for the ticket with a 102-86 win over Uganda in their first round Group B qualifying tournament in Mali.
The 3-day qualifier will see the Nigerian team play Uganda, Rwanda and Mali in group B’s first round of games. D’Tigers will use their newly launched kit to prosecute this first round of qualifiers.
The Ike Diogu captained side will also play Rwanda (on Saturday) and hosts Mali (on Sunday) in the group. The second round of the qualifiers will be played in June.
In Friday’s game, Nigeria started slow as the Ugandans took the first quarter 17-11 but Nigeria bounced back and took the remaining three quarters. They won the second quarter 36-29 before taking the third quarter 28-20 and the last quarter 27-20.
New D’Tigers power forward Michael Efevberha combined well with Diogu as he weighed in 20 points and four rebounds while the captain accounted for 19 points, one assist and seven rebounds.
Ben Uzoh weighed in 15 points while Obi Emegano accounted for 14 points and Bryant Mbamalu scored 11 points.
Jimmy Enabu was the star for the Ugandans as he weighed in 27 points with two assists while Robinson Odoch followed with 25 points and two rebounds.
Nigeria converted 69.23 per cent of their two-point field goal against Uganda’s 56.25 per cent. The Ugandans converted 50 per cent of their three-point field goals against Nigeria’s 57.89 per cent.
Uganda had 14 points from their bench while Nigeria had 35.
D’Tigers converted 65.22 per cent of their free throws but Uganda converted 50 per cent of theirs.
The 2015 ‘Afrobasket’ Champions will be aiming to be among the 5 African teams to qualify for the 2019 FIBA world tournament in China after losing out of the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain.
Next years’ FIBA world tournament will signify a new era for world basketball as it will be the first time the championship will not be held in the same year as the FIFA World Cup.
Africa’s contingent to the World tournament also increased to 5 from the usual 3 participants after the competition was increased from 24 to 32 teams.
D’Tigers will be looking to improve their ratings on the FIBA world rankings, as they are currently placed 32nd in the world, and 1st in Africa.
D’Tigers Fixtures in Mali;
Uganda vs. Nigeria, February 23 – 3:30 pm (already played)
Nigeria vs. Rwanda, February 24 – 3:30 pm
Mali vs. Nigeria, February 25 – 6:00pm