Nigeria’s female basketball national team, D’Tigress are still licking wounds from their loss to USA in the early hours of Tuesday, but they have quickly turned their attention on their next game at the Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, megasportsarena.com reports.
D’Tigress finally lost the game 81-72 in Saitama, Japan, where they confronted the same foe that recently beat them 93-62 in an exhibition game in Las Vegas, USA.
D’Tigress made an impressive 8-1 start, forcing the US to turn the ball over several times, but the defending champions soon found a way around Nigeria’s full-court press and eventually went into a 9-8 lead with just under five minutes left in the opening quarter.
By the 2:12 mark, both sides were tied 16-16 and in foul trouble, and D’Tigress were soon back in the lead when Ify Ibekwe dropped a free throw to put Nigeria up 17-16.
After a successful free-throw restored parity at 17-17, Ibekwe dropped a three at the buzzer to give Nigeria a shock 20-17 lead at the end of the first quarter.
D’Tigress will seek atonement and resurgence when they battle France in their second group game of Tokyo 2020, which will hold at 9:20am Nigeria time and promises to be a cracker between two sides of divergent fortunes.
The game will come three days after D’Tigress put up a spirited performance against USA, as they toiled toe-to-toe for awhile with the eight time Olympic Games’ champions and reigning FIBA Women’s World Cup holders in their opening group game at Tokyo 2020.
Since losing in the quarter-finals of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the US women have dominated their rivals and, before Tuesday’s game against Nigeria, the Americans had taken the court at the Olympic Games 49 times, and 49 times, they’ve left the floor as winners.
That impressive record is now 50 wins in a row, but they will be asking themselves how a team they defeated by 31 points less than two weeks ago, came close to creating the greatest upset in Olympic women’s basketball history.
Having lost by 31 points to the World Champions less than two weeks ago, a more impressive performance was required from D’Tigress who didn’t disappoint losing by margin of nine points difference against the women’s basketball world number one team.
Nigeria had four players on double digits, with Ezinne Kalu as top performer with 16 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists, followed by Victoria Macaulay with 11 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists; while team captain Adaora Elonu and Promise Amukamara both finished with 10 points each.
D’Tigress began the game the more aggressive side opening a 7 point gap in the early stages of Q1 but the USA soon found their feet and made it a contest. At the end of Q1, it was Nigeria 20-17 USA thanks to a final second trey from Ify Ibekwe just before the sound of the buzzer.
The second quarter began with Nigeria opening a five point lead against the US but everything soon went south as D’Tigress lost control of the game and found it difficult to make the baskets as the USA went on a 17-0 run and had opened a 20 point gap at the end of the third quarter.
D’Tigress rallied in the final quarter to win it 22-11, cutting the deficit to nine points but, despite putting up an impressive display overall, Otis Hughley’s side could only manage a meagre 27% from the field, which they will have to improve on in Friday’s clash with France.
Friday will also see D’Tigress take on France in a game that, based on their performance against the Americans, could see the Nigerians recording their first victory at the Olympics since the 2004 Athens Olympics when a side led by Mfon Udoka defeated South Korea 68-64.