Nigeria remain unbeaten after the first round in Group B games of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers at the Palais Des Sports Salamatou Maiga Arena in Mali on Sunday.
Four D’Tigers ended on double figures with captain Ik Diogu leading the way with 22 points and 9 rebounds while Obi Emegano and Bryant Mbamalu both added 15 and 14 points respectively. Michael Efevberha finished with 11 points, 5 rebounds and eight assists.
D’Tigers strung a 12-0 run early to take a double digit lead before the end of the first quarter. Malians missed numerous baskets and only recorded 5 points from the free throw line at the end of the first quarter ( 5-21).
Diogu who had a dissappointing first half with just 4 points, stepped up in the second and eventually made 42.86% of his field goals, 50% from the arc and 100% from the line.
Despite the win against host Mali, Nigeria failed to reach 100 points in 3 games. The D’Tigers had scored at least 100 in their last two games against Uganda and Rwanda.
Nigeria will next play the second leg of Group B action in the June 29 -July 1 window in a yet to be decided venue.
Meanwhile, 34 year old Diogu is hoping the next window will be played in Nigeria in front of very passionate home fans.
“I can imagine what the atmosphere would be like playing before our home fans. It would be exciting for me and others as well. Most of the time we’ve played for Nigeria, it’s been outside of the country but the idea that the third window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers could be at home thrills me and I would look forward to it,” Diogu said to fiba.basketball
“It’s always great when you know you’re going to be among family members. Their presence is reassuring and playing in Nigeria would give the fans an opportunity to see their players at close range.”
In order to secure a place in the African Qualifiers’ 12-team second-round, teams need to finish in the top-three of their groups.