Nigeria missed out on a big opportunity, squandering a tough 82-77 opening game loss to Russia at the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China.
In tight match-up between two countries with high exceptions, Nigeria rose to the occasion playing toe-to-toe against a well balanced Russian team until the final seconds of the game.
Trailing by less than five points for majority of the game, D’Tigers opened the fourth-quarter as the aggressors and methodically grinded Russia down to pull ahead 68-60 on a solid 8-2 run with 6:06 to play. Nigeria seemed in control and maintained a game-high 8-point lead with 5:14 at 71-63 — before allowing Russia to regain momentum of the game with poor shot selection and late defensive rotations.
The experienced Russian squad stayed composed holding the Nigerians scoreless for nearly three-minutes to regain the lead and ice the game from the free-throw line — breaking a 75-75 tie with 31 seconds to go.
Russia got strong performances from Guard Mikhail Kulagin with 16 points, 3 rebounds. Andrey Vorontsevich 14 points, 3 rebounds and Vitaly Fridzon contributed with 11 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
Both teams struggled with ball-handling — Nigeria racked-up 21 turnovers versus 14 assists and Russia coughed-up the ball 21 times on 13 helpers.
Josh Okogie finished with a game-high 18 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds. Jordan Nwora hit double-figures with 10 points, 4 assists 2 rebounds. Ike Iroegbu 12 points, 1 steal and Nnamdi Vincent 11 points on 2-of-5 triples.
With a 2020 Olympic spot up for grabs and on a day where all African teams failed to impress – D’ Tigers squandered away a must-win game and now face the up-hill battle of having to defeat a tough Argentina in order to advance to next phase of the World Cup.