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Nigeria squanders golden opportunity in World Cup loss to Russia

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.

Mikhail Kulagin Drives Past Nigeria 2019 Fiba World Cup
Mikhail Kulagin drives past Nigeria at 2019 FIBA World Cup – Photo: FIBA

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.

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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.

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