African Champions Mali have made history.
Playing in only their third FIBA U19 World Cup — Mali defeated Puerto Rico 84-74 in the quarter-finals of the 2019 World cup to become the first African nation to reach the semi-finals.
16 year-old (July 13, 2002) phenom Oumar Ballo (6’10, 7’6″ foot wing-span) continued to turn heads with his second-consecutive, big-time double-double and finished with 21 points, 17 rebounds, 4 blocked shots and 2 steals.
Ballo is averaging an eye-popping 18.7 points, 13.7 rebounds, 4 blocks, 2 steals and 2 assists in three games after missing the first two games including Mali’s signature 71-70 win over defending champions Canada
Mali fought-off a sluggish start and hot shooting Puerto Rico team that controlled the tempo and trailed 21-15 after the first-quarter.
From there it was a Mali, who quickly turned the second-quarter and the rest of the game in to a block and dunk party outscoring their North American counterparts 22-12 and grab a 37-33 lead.
Head coach Alhadji Dicko ordered more of the same recipe in the third-quarter as Mali recorded a total of 9 dunks and 9 blocked shots in the 10-point win. Mali outscored Puerto Rico 22-12 in the third-quarter for a comfortable 59-45 lead. The margin hit a game-high 20 points at 65-45 before a late effort from Puerto Rico cut the deficit to single digits, but never threatening Mali’s historic win.
The victory also gives Mali the bragging rights of having the highest placement by a African nation at the U19 level. The previous best finish by an African team was 11th-place and established by Nigeria and Egypt.
Fousseyni Drame paced Mali with 22 points and 4 steals, twin brother Hassan Drame had a strong all-round game out with 9 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals.
Siriman Kanoute added 16 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists but was responsible for 10 of Mali’s 29 turnovers. Abdramane Camara also contribute with 7 points and 8 rebounds.
Mali (4-1) will now play the winner of France/Canada for a shot at advancing to their first-ever FIBA U19 championship game.
Mali finished dead last, in 16th-place at the 2017 FIBA U19 World Cup in Egypt, Cairo — dropping all 7 games and losing by an average of 21 points including wide-margin losses to Canada 91-42, USA 117-69, Spain 62-43, New Zealand 87-63, Angola 73-54. Mali’s two closest contest were against Japan 76-73 and Iran 70-61.
Mali’s other FIBA U19 appearance was in 2007 when they finished 15 out of 16 teams with a 1-4 recording a 89-81 win over Puerto Rico.