And so D’Tigers end their journey at the Olympics in the first round as predicted, despite some inspiring plays. But the exit is a case of what could have been, as the Nigerian team, with the lowest rating in the Group, could have taken more scalps than the one in the sole Croatia victory. And Brazil could have been one of them…
Ben Uzoh should have seen more minutes. Will Voight is a good coach, no doubt about that. But his decision to give Uzoh and Mike Umeh equal minutes – with the benefit of hindsight – is faulty. Umeh played 19.46 minutes while Uzoh had 20.39, and the extra minute was because Umeh committed some huge errors down the stretch, and Voight had no option but to yank him off. And the moment Uzoh came on, D’Tigers, who had been flustered, regained their composure.
Plus, Uzoh was more productive: 15pts on 71.4% shooting plus 5/8 Free Throws (which shows willingness to penetrate) compared to Umeh’s 9pts on 2/5 shooting (three from long range and 2 Free Throws, which means he likes popping from range, rather than pass or penetrate).
The offense was not composed. All through the tournament, D’Tigers suffered from poor shot selection. It didn’t matter so much in some of the earlier games because the defence was struggling too. But against Brazil, the defence was top notch (at least in the paint) and held off the Brazilians despite the multiple Offensive Rebounds by the opponents (20).
The shot-selection discipline they showed in the 1st Quarter (2/6 three point shot) disappeared over the next three Quarters (5/14, to make 7/20 total). D’Tigers put up only 38 shots from 2pt range all evening, that’s a mere 9.5 shots per Quarter, that’s less than one shot per THREE possessions!
D’Tigers lose focus at critical times. And that’s why the shot ratio to possession was low. They defend brilliantly, only to carelessly lose the ball mid-court. That’s where the 18 turn overs and 10 steals came from: loss of concentration, and poor shot selection that led to air balls.
Nigeria have now played at consecutive Olympics, for D’Tigers to play at a third, a DEFINITE plan of action must be set out and followed. This, of course, must be preceded by a concerted effort to settle all the issues splintering our basketball. Any other route taken, will end in futility…