Nigeria’s D’Tigers men’s basketball team is still looking to grab its first win at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics in Saitama, Japan. They face a tough Italy team on Saturday in their last Group B match, which could prove decisive in determining their Olympic fate.
After winning impressively against Team USA and Argentina during exhibition play prior to this year’s Olympics, Nigeria has suffered two straight losses in Tokyo. In their Olympic opener, the Nigerians were defeated handily by Australia to the tune of 84-67 on Monday.
They were favored to win against Germany but they lost the game 99-92 on Wednesday for their second straight defeat.
Nigeria Olympic Men's Basketball team’s roster: What has gone wrong so far in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics?
Also Check out: Nigeria Olympic Basketball Team 2021
The Nigeria men’s national basketball team is the only African nation to qualify for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics via the FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament. They are carrying the name of the entire continent on their shoulders and the pressure may have a lot to do with their disappointing performance in the Olympics so far.
The losses are a surprising turn of events after Team Nigeria’s stock was rising with the infusion of NBA talent on the roster. They have eight players currently in the NBA, namely guards Miye Oni, Nnamdi “Gabe” Vincent, forwards Josh Okogie, Jordan Nwora, KZ Okpala and Chimezie Metu, and centers Jahlil Okafor and Precious Achiuwa.
The other players on the roster are guards Caleb Agada, Obi Emegano and Ike Nwamu, as well as former NBA forward/center Ekpe Udoh.
Vincent, Okpala and Achiuwa were teammates last season on the Miami Heat, an experience that should have helped Nigeria address some of its team chemistry issues with so many new faces on the squad. With this much firepower, the Nigerians were expected to be one of the top teams in Group B.
In their first game, Nigeria failed to disrupt the Australians’ offense as Patty Mills scored a game-high 25 points with six assists and four steals. The 17-point debacle showed just how far Nigeria has to go to become a force in the Olympics as they surrendered 84 points and 11 3-pointers to the Boomers.
The Nigerians also turned the ball over 24 times and made just 12 of their 24 free throw attempts. After a close first three quarters, the D’Tigers gave up 26 points in the fourth while scoring only 15 from their end.
In their second preliminary round game, reserve forward Nwora had a game-high 33 points on 13-of-20 shooting from the field, including 7-of-12 from 3-point range against Germany. His efforts were unfortunately wasted when Team Nigeria gave up nearly 100 points to the Germans.
Nwora’s point total was the second-best point total of the tournament, bested only by Slovenia’s Luka Doncic who had 48 points against Argentina on Monday.
Nigeria’s defense was sorely lacking as they allowed Germany to shoot 54 percent from the field, while being outrebounded by their opponent 35-28. Though the African team made a sizzling 17-of-36 shots from 3-point range, their lack of attention on the defensive end spelled their doom.
Additionally, Team Nigeria is only making 52.8 percent of their free throws in the tournament, which is another major reason for their pair of losses. In the two games, they have made only 19 of 36 free-throw attempts. In other words, they’re getting to the line, but cashing in on those opportunities is another matter.
For Nigeria to advance to the quarter-finals, they have to win against Italy and hope that they qualify as one of the two best third-place finishers from the three groups.