D’Tigers overcame all odds to beat Mali 62-56 and secure their first win of the 2023 AfroCan in their opening game at the Pavilhao Multiusos du Luanda in Angola on Sunday despite arriving in the country less than 12 hours before the game.
Uncertainty had surrounded the team’s participation in the competition despite getting a wild card due to paucity of funds. The Nigeria Basketball Federation had complained of finding it difficult to source funds which led to their late departure and arrival for the competition.
The Nigerian home-based team were explosive from the jump-off in the first quarter winning 20-9 but lost a bit of steam in the second quarter scoring 10 points to Mali’s 13 as they went into the first half break 30-22 and a healthy eight points lead.
They had a more improved performance in the third quarter, although it was close, D’Tigers pipped Mali 18-17 while withstanding Mali’s attempted comeback in the fourth quarter (17-14) claiming their first win of the campaign.
Micheal Afuwape scored a game-high 16 points, five rebounds, five assists, and two steals. Chinedu Martins Chimbuo had 15 points, eight rebounds, one steal, and two blocks while Ibe Abuchi recorded 10 points three rebounds, and two assists. Centre Victor Koko Anthony recorded a game-high 12 rebounds and one block.
Benke Diarouma had led the Malians with 11 points and six rebounds while Ousmane Traore contributed 10 points. Nigeria had a combined 46 rebounds compared to Mali’s 36.