Nigeria national men’s basketball team, D’Tigers have defeated 2019 FIBA World Cup hosts China 86-73 in their final classification match to secure Africa’s sole ticket to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on Sunday.
With both teams having seen their hopes of progressing in the tournament dashed in the first round, there was still plenty at stake in the final classification 17-32 Group M action with the prospect of automatic Olympic qualification dangling in front of them.
After two victories each, China and Nigeria were in pole position for direct Olympics entry in their respective regions of Asia and Africa.
Tunisia’s win over Angola in the 9am tipoff however changed the dynamics for D’Tigers as they needed an outright over the hosts to make sure of their Olympics slot.
Backed by a vociferous crowd in the packed Guangzhou Gymnasium, China started with venom with guard Shuo Fang sinking three consecutive three-pointers as Nigeria struggled to defend their perimeter.
The Chinese were on top and ended the first quarter 21-19 in the lead but that was the only lead they enjoyed in the match as D’Tigers led by the magnificent Josh Okogie who finished with 19 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists, got their bearing correct and took control of the narrative to enter half time 31-35 ahead.
Nigeria increased their lead by nine points in the third quarter with Chimezie Metu, Ekpe Udoh and the irresistible Al-Farouq Aminu all putting up impressive displays.
The show of dominance continued in the fourth and when the buzzer sounded, it was D’Tigers who had held off China and their army of fans to seal passage to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Al-Farouq Aminu finished with 6 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists, Ekpe Udoh added 13 points and 2 rebounds while Chimezie Metu grabbed 11 points and 6 rebounds for Nigeria.
Yi Jianlian scored 27 points for China who are now in danger of missing direct qualification from Asia with Iran set to overtake them.