Lithuania got their pound of flesh from Nigeria when they handed D’Tigers their second defeat of the Olympic Games on Tuesday. Nigeria clambered on the back of Lithuania with an 86-80 victory to ensure qualification out of a tough Group in the Pre-Olympic Qualifiers in 2012. Fate threw both teams together in the same Olympic Group in 2016, and as predicted, the Eastern Europeans triumphed 89-80. But D’Tigers played better basketball than they did in their first game…
D’Tigers adjusted and it paid off, but Lithuania did what we expected. We noted in ‘The Lessons..’ that Lithuania are bigger and Nigeria and that D’Tigers must use their athleticism and shooting to advantage. They did. D’Tigers had shot 4-29 and 4-25 treys against USA and Argentina, they were 10-23 versus Lithuania. Their Free Throws improved from 68% against Argentina to 80% versus Lithuania, and while both Argentina and Lithuania out-rebounded the smaller Nigerians, (Argentina 40-32, and Lithuania 34-22), D’Tigers limited the amount of offensive boards (Argentina snagged 12, Lithuania got only 10)
The Turn Overs also reduced, drastically. Offensive boards and Turn Overs lead to second-chance points for opponents, and D’Tigers gave away plenty both in the Exhibition Game against USA and Argentina. They cut it down against Lithuania: they gave the ball away 20 times both against USA and Argentina, but versus Lithuania, they dropped it only 14 times. Ben Uzoh, accused of inconsistency, had a total of eight TO’s versus USA and Argentina. He had zero turn over versus against Lithuania. And Ike Diogu, who had a team-high five TO’s in 28 mins versus Argentina, had only three in 29 mins of play against Lithuania.
Insertion of Champ Oguchi into the starting Line-up was timely. William Voight gave Lithuania something to think about when he inserted Chamberlain Oguchi in the starting line up in place of Michael Gbinijie. Oguchi’s shooting is well known in world basketball and his presence helped stretched the floor. Even though Oguchi didn’t shoot very well (1-5 treys and 1-2 2P) he drew the defence and freed space for other shooters: Mike Umeh, who was 1-4 from three point range against Argentina, was 3-4 versus Lithuania. He also shot 80% from close. Ike Diogu also benefited as he improved from 28.6% to 50% treys versus Argentina.
However, D’Tigers continued their trait of starting well, only to fade as the game goes on. They collapsed in the 3rd Quarter against USA, and lost control of the game against Argentina in the 2nd Quarter. Against Argentina, D’Tigers disintegrated in the 3rd Quarter after taking a slim lead into Half Time.
We continue to see shocks on the basketball court as Brazil revived their qualification hopes by handing Spain their second defeat. Nigeria will face Spain on Thursday. It may well be a winner-takes-all kind of encounter, as the former European Champions seek redemption.
Picture is Courtesy Twitter @Basketballnaija