D’Tigers of Nigeria were yesterday sent packing from the Tokyo 2020 men’s basketball event, after losing 71-80 to Italy in their last Group B. The encounter held at the Saitama Super Arena Aomi Urban Sports.
D’Tigers had lost 67-84 in their opening game of the group, before losing 92-99 narrowly to Germany in their second match.
The Nigerians had started on the front foot by taking the first two points before the Italians rallied and began to dominate the game for 29-17 at the end of the first quarter.
Nigeria, however, pulled off a stunning comeback as the Italians struggled to keep up with the pace of the D’Tigers for a 40-39 at the end of the second quarter.
D’Tigers led 63-56 after three quarters, and even saw their lead increase before the fourth quarter resumed.
Italy’s Michele Vitali had drawn a technical for trying to slap the ball away before the start of the fourth quarter.
So, before the 10-minute clock even started, Nigeria’s seven-point lead increased to an eight-point edge.
However, the D’Tigers took their foot off the gas and did not score for nearly seven minutes from then on.
Nicolo Melli scored 15 points, Nico Mannion had 14 and Italy used a 14-0 run in the fourth quarter to rally and beat Nigeria 80-71 in the Group B finale for both teams.
Achille Polonara added 13, Simone Fontecchio scored 12 and Stefano Tonut finished with 10 for Italy (2-1).
Chimezie Metu scored 22 points and Jordan Nwora added 20, while Jahlil Okafor scored 14 points.
The Italians, who finished second in Group B behind Australia after Germany lost to Australia and will play in the quarterfinals against a yet-to-be-determined opponent on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, has expressed his thanks and appreciation to the players and technical crew of Nigeria’s national men’s basketball team after the team’s campaign at the Olympic Games came to an end yesterday.
“My thanks and appreciations go to the players and coaching staff of the D’Tigers. They represented Nigeria impressively and we thank them for their resilience, efforts and their patriotic commitment.
“They came and gave a good account of themselves to the world that Nigeria will compete amongst the best basketball nations. And to Mike Brown and the coaching staff, thank you for building this team and your faith in the team. You have performed tremendously well and Nigerians thank you sincerely,” Dare said.
The Caretaker President of the Nigerian Basketball Federation (NBBF), Musa Kida, has also expressed his gratitude to the men’s national basketball team for representing Nigeria ‘very well’ at the ongoing Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
He said, “D’Tigers, it’s been such a long journey in such a short time. You have all done very well as athletes, coaches and technical staff within the context of challenges we had to overcome.
“As President of NBBF, I would like to personally say thanks to all of you for representing your country very well and assure you that Nigeria is proud of your efforts and staying power as a group.
“We need to stay together and continue building on what we have done here as African representatives. We shall definitely do better as we are stronger. Stay safe and strong guys,” he stated.