Nigeria’s male team D’Tigers suffered their first loss at the on-going 2019 FIBA World Cup qualifiers against Cote d’Ivoire by 72-46 points at the Palaise des Sports arena on Friday.
In what was going to be a night the Nigerian team will hope to forget in a hurry, Cote d’Ivoire raced into an 8-point early lead in the first quarter to set the tone for the final outcome of the game.
The team trailed throughout the game (10-14, 9-14, 12-27, 15-17) which has gone down as their heaviest defeat since Coach Alex Nwora took charge in 2017.
D’Tigers returnee, Ekene Ibekwe was the team’s top performer with 8 points, 10 rebounds and 2 steals while team captain, Ike Diogu was the highest scorer with 10 points and 5 rebounds.
On the night, D’Tigers could only manage a 35.7 per cent from the 2 points shots compared to 44.7 per cent of the Ivoirians who also had a 41.7 per cent conversion from the 3 point line as against Nigeria’s 4.5 per cent.
In his post match reaction, Nwora commended the boys for putting up a decent show despite the fatigue and little time they had to train together in camp.
He said the Ivoiriens did a good job in containing his team’s offensives after the team only managed to score just a single 3 point shot throughout the game, saying it was going to be tough for any team to win with such poor shooting record.
“I know we are fighters, though Ivory Coast played at home and had their home support, that got to us a little bit too.”
“I am proud of the way we fought but we could have done more to represent Nigeria better but we have 2 more games to regain our respect in Africa and hopefully we will do a better job tomorrow against Central Africa,” Nwora said.
On his part, Diogu said the team did not execute the game as planned while missing a lot of their scoring chances which cost the team dearly but stressed that it is not enough for the panic button.
“We missed easy shots. A lot of those three shots that were wide open.”
“If I am being honest, do I think Ivory Coast is a better team than us? No. I think if we play against them 20 times, we will beat them 20 times out of the 20 but unfortunately, that’s why the game is played.
“All it takes is one night to be off. They played well, hats off to them but is it a reason for me to be concerned? No, because we never shoot like that before from 3 or 2”.
Diogu is optimistic that all mistakes will be corrected on Saturday when they face 3rd placed Central Africa Republic.