D’Tigers of Nigeria fell to New Zealand in their first game of the XXI Commonwealth Games holding in Australia by 65points to 110.
New Zealand dominated and won all the quarters on a night that the Ike Diogu captained side will want to forget in a hurry as they focus on the next game against North American side, Canada on Saturday.
After a close game in the first and second quarters which ended 24-15 and 26-20 points respectively in favour of New Zealand, D’Tigers could not cope with the firepower of the team currently ranked 38 in the latest FIBA ranking in the third quarter as they widened the margin with a 31-8 scoreline before sealing the victory with another 29-22points scoreline to wrap up the game.
Kano Pillars star man, Dike Azouma was the highest scorer for the team on the night scoring 15 points (with an 80% percent success from the 3 point line), 3 rebounds and 1 assist while ever reliable Diogu scored 12 points and 7 rebounds.
Making his national team debut, homeboy, Istfanus Yakubu scored 10points with just about 14minutes on the floor with the technical crew giving all the players bar Musa Usman a taste of action in the opening game.
Reacting after the game, Coach Mohammed Abdulrahman who stood in alongside Aderemi Adewunmi for Alex Nwora said that apart from having a good day at the office, their opposition also dominated in rebounds and from the 3 point line.
The head coach of Gombe Bulls Basketball Club conceded that his team met a more experienced team and would have lost if similar circumstance presented itself all over again.
“I don’t think anything went wrong, I think we just played against a team that is more experienced than we are. New Zealand is a combination of players in the professional level and well paid playing this game.
To make it even worse, they had a great day. They shot well from the 3 point line and dominated us in rebounds which played a major role in our defeat.”
According to the former Nigerian international, lessons have been learnt and the team can only get better in their next game against Canada who are ranked 23 in the world.
“The good thing is, we are going to get better going into the next game. We have learnt to know that the only way we can get through this is only if we play as a team.”
He explained that with better sense of team play and cohesion within the squad ahead of their next game, the team will surely play better.
Despite the bashing against New Zealand, Coach Abdulrahman said the team will approach their game against Canada in a more aggressive style with an aim of recording their first win.
“Our game plan against Canada tomorrow will be more aggressive. We are going to play with much confidence, trust in ourselves and even more importantly play as a unit.”
A loss against Canada will bring their medal chase to an abrupt end even with a game left to play against the host.