Neither the explosive package that needed detonation by security men outside the Carioca 1 Arena, nor the string of previous losses by both teams were sufficient reasons to deter fans from watching the battle between the unevenly-matched teams in the second game of the Men’s Basketball Tournament on Thursday night. If anything, the contrasts between both team’s global rankings (Spain at #2 and Nigeria at #25), as well as the fact that they each needed a win and would pull all stops to get it, were enough reasons fans thronged into the arena to cheer their favourite teams.
Even though the Nigerian team lost, adding one more loss to its previous two, it gave the fans a thrilling performance that had the fans at the arena and across social media cheering and rooting deeply for it to win. Obviously, Nigeria had an unimpressive first quarter, trailing 11-25 to Spain. The second quarter, however, saw a new breath of life and energy from the Nigerian team as it outscored Spain 30-18 in the second quarter to end the first half trialing by just two points 41-43.
The Nigeria D’Tigers continued with its impressive effort as it resumed the third quarter, led by Chamberlain Oguchi’s nine points on 3-of-4 shooting from behind the three-point arc, and Ekene Ibekwe’s two huge blocks on Pau Gasol in the paint. Even though Spain put up a solid resistance in the third quarter, Nigeria played better, outscoring the Spaniards 25-22 in the period to get a one-point advantage 66-65 going into the fourth quarter. Brazilians at the arena cheered in support for the Nigerian team, and non-Nigerians across Twitter expressed surprise at the close-contest.
I watched Nigeria in Las Vegas. Their American coach, Will Voight, a Vermonter, knows what he’s doing. Well coached and they play hard.
— Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) August 11, 2016
— Blendi (@blendihashani) August 11, 2016
Oguchi, who took all twelve attempts of the night from three-point, resumed his specialty in the fourth quarter, draining 3-of-5 from trifecta land. It was, however, insufficient. Alade Aminu, who contributed 9 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks, fouled out with 2:21 minutes to the end of the fourth. Ben Uzoh, playing a reserve role in the game, recorded 8 points and 7 assists in 22 minutes of play.
Despite Nigeria’s valiant effort, Spain managed to wriggle itself to a win and away from the tenacious claws of the Nigeria D’Tigers to record its first win of the Olympic Men’s Basketball Tournament.
The game was closer than the nine-point margin depicts, as Nigeria, African champion at the 2015 FIBA Afrobasket, went full force against Europe’s champion at the 2015 FIBA Eurobasket.
Nigeria is 0-3 and sits at the bottom of Group B. The team will need to win its next two games against Brazil and Croatia in order to qualify for the quarterfinals.