Rio Olympics: D’Tigers crash out

Nigeria’s Ike Diogu of Nigeria (left), Felicio Cristiano of Brazil (centre) and Nigeria’s Alade Aminu compete for the ball during their group clash at the Carioca Arena 1 in the Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. PHOTO: EPA.

Nigeria’s D’Tigers on Monday, crashed out of the men’s basketball of the Rio Olympics as they lost 69-86 to the hosts, Brazil, in their last group B game.

Nigeria’s only win at Rio 2016 was a surprise 90-76 victory over Croatia in what was regarded as the biggest upset of the tournament after losing its first three matches against Argentina, Lithuania and Spain respectively.

The reigning AfroBasket champions however, on Monday, also lost the chance to grab a quarter-final ticket, as the Brazilians overwhelmed them with home support to carry the day.

Brazil used a 27-15 second quarter to take control of the game and whenever Nigeria got within striking distance over the course of the second half, Nene Hilario stepped up to make big plays to keep them at bay.

Rafael Hettsheimer, Raulzinho Neto and Vitor Benite provided a huge lift off the bench in the first half. Hettsheimer was doing damage from beyond the arc, while Neto capped off a 7-0 run for a 38-28 lead and Benite hit a high-arching floater in the dying seconds of the second quarter for a 42-31 advantage at the break.

The African champions fought back and were within 61-57 when Josh Akognon buried a three-pointer with 8:52 minutes left to play. It would be the closed they’d get as Brazil outscored them 25-12 the rest of the way.

The turning point of the match was when after both teams went through a bit of a scoring drought, Nene hit a pair of free-throws to extend Brazil’s advantage to 63-57 with 6:25 minutes remaining and blocked Ike Diogu at the other end.

Nene turned the hero of the match as he finished with a game-high 19 points to go with seven rebounds, four assists and a block. He even got a very friendly roll on a three-point attempt for his first make of the tournament. Hettsheimer and Benite each had 10 points in the first half.

Nigeria finished last in the group with six points.

It will be recalled, that D’Tigers, finished 10th among 12 teams at the London 2012 also with a victory over fellow African side, Tunisia.