KIGALI (Rwanda) – Reigning champions Nigeria improved to 2-0 at the 2023 FIBA Women’s AfroBasket in Kigali by seeing off Egypt 83-65, in a game they controlled after a slow start.
With this win, Nigeria top the Group D and qualify directly for the Quarter-Finals. But they still have to wait to know who will be their opponents.
The game quickly turned to the advantage of Nigeria, though both teams had some failed attempts at opening the score.
But as the game progressed, it became clear that the D’Tigresses were out for the win and they never looked back.
TURNING POINT: It happened in the first quarter when Nigeria took control of the match. However, there was one very important point to note: The score remained blank for more than two minutes after kick-off.
It was only after Amy Okwonko hit the first two free-throws of the game and opened the score that things took another turn. But far from giving in, Egypt hit back through Nadine Mohamed (3-2). Elizabeth Balogun gave the Nigerians the lead (5-3).
The two teams were level at 7-7 until Murjanatu Musa took the score to 9-7, before Okwonko, Nicole Enabosi and Olaoluwatomi Taiwo gave the reigning champions the lead for good (18-10) by the end of the first quarter.
The Egyptians made several attempts to resist and get back into the game. It was not until the third restart that the Nigerians faltered a little, when Egypt went on a 19-14 run. But they woke up the D’Tigresses, who would go on to to score 27 points in the final period.
STATS DON’T LIE : The numbers explain Nigeria’s victory. First of all, Nigeria scored 20 points – almost a quarter of their total for the day – from Egyptian loose balls. Suffice to say that the D’Tigresses made the most of this opportunity.
The Nigerian bench produced no fewer than 68 points, more than any other bench to date, while the Egyptians were content with just 6 points.
To take things a step further, the Nigerians grabbed 71 rebounds, including 43 in defence. This figure alone far exceeded Egypt’s total of 34 rebounds over the entire match. In addition, the West Africans dominated in the paint, scoring 38 points, and scoring 26 points on second chances.
HEROES: The Nigerian squad was able to rely on the energy of Amy Okwonko to win both offensively and defensively. The forward scored 29 points and picked up 13 rebounds. Better still, she produced a perfect record from the free-throw line, scoring 11/11.
Then there were Murjanatu Musa with 18 points, and Nicole Enabosi with 10, who contributed to the winning cause.
BOTTOM LINE : With this second win in a row, Nigeria extend their run of consecutive victories on the continent to 21-0, and qualify for the Quarter-Finals at the same time. It’s a result that fans have been hoping for, given the team’s status as reigning African champions at three editions of the FIBA Women’s AfroBasket.
THEY SAID: “Everything the coach says motivates us. We came for the win, and we knew we’d had a target painted on our backs. We have a standard that we play to and we’ve been trying to establish a new standard with the new coach. We stepped on the court for each other and we’re ready to play for each other and for the country. I think we can improve on our turnovers. We have had way too many. We also need to improve on our shooting but I think we should continue to instill confidence in our shooters so they can improve too.” Amy Okwonko, Nigerian forward.
“We knew that Nigeria are reigning champions, so we also knew we’d face a tough defense and tough offensive side. But we also showed our character. We have been able to close the gap from 13 points to 7 points. This year, we came with the intention of finishing in the Final Four. Not the Final Eight. We are focusing of making it past the Quarter-Finals. So, we’re going to forget today’s game and get our attention directed to the classification game, which is the most important game for us.” Soraya Degheidy, team captain, Egypt.