Temps de lecture : 4 mn 🕗
KIGALI (Rwanda) – Defending champions Nigeria tipped off their 2023 FIBA women's AfroBasket campaign in the best possible way by seeing off DR Congo 69-35 in the opener of the tournament.
The Nigerians won without too much effort, leading 29-18 at the break.
Things went the way the African champions wanted. They controlled the match, even forcing the Congolese to come up short in the first and second quarters.
The names to remember for Nigeria's debut at the Rwandan AfroBasket are: Sarah Ogoke, Elizabeth Balogun and Ifunya Okoro, who were the centrepieces for the D'Tigresses.
As for the DRC, they are still finding their feet against Nigeria. In their last six meetings, the Congolese have never won. As a result, Nigeria hold a 7-0 series over DR Congo.
TURNING POINT: Things changed midway through the first quarter. The DRC ran out of inspiration in front of Nigeria's basket. This dry spell lasted almost 10 minutes and enabled the defending champions to take the score to 22-8.
Nigeria then executed their game plan perfectly, gradually extending their lead to 29-18 at half-time, before extending their advantage to 18 points with 1'24 remaining in the third quarter.
It was also around this point that the DRC regained their energy, going on a six-point run to pull back to within 14 points of the Nigerians (44-30). But this energy didn't last, and the DRC often found themselves entangled in front of the opposing basket.
STATS DON'T LIE: It was time to show who was boss, and that's exactly what Nigeria did, taking advantage of Congolese turnovers. They scored 27 points, compared with just 7 for the DRC.
Nigeria's also leaned on their bench to make a difference. 36: that's how many points the Nigerian bench produced.
HEROES: Three-time African champion Sarah Ogoke played her general role perfectly on the floor, leading her team to victory. She set the example, finishing with 10 points, 6 rebounds off the bench and acting like a coach on the court, leading her comrades to a deserved, morale-boosting victory.
Ogoke also added two assists and a steal to guide her team to victory, with Elizabeth Balogun's 11 points and Ifunaya Okoro's 11 weighing in just as heavily.
On the DRC side, only Gracia Nguz finished in double figures, scoring 12 points.
BOTTOM LINE: Nigeria are the defending champion. And the DRC had every intention of upsetting them. But you don't try to upset the reigning champion and hope to escape unscathed. The DRC learned this the hard way.
Nigeria will defend their skin and title dearly. That's the other lesson to be learned from this first encounter. The Nigerians are in Kigali with the hope and firm intention of adding a fourth consecutive title to their trophy cabinet.
THEY SAID: “It's our first win with this young team. We'll continue to improve throughout the tournament. We have to give credit to DR Congo. They are a good team and they played a very physical game. They played well but we were able to take in the pressure. Now, we're going to focus on our next game, against Egypt. We're going to rest, have a good training session and look forward to having a great game on Sunday.” Sarah Ogoke, team captain, Nigeria.
Ginette Mfutila (right)
“I think this match reflects a bit the game we played against Senegal ahead of the tournament. We all saw what needs to be improved, and we're going to work on those aspects. When you play a team like Nigeria, you can't afford to lose 20 rebounds. From another point of view, the team is relatively young. Nearly 90% have never played in the AfroBasket. And starting against a team like Nigeria is a bit tough for them. But we're going to learn from our mistakes and put things right.” Ginette Mfutila, DRC captain.