Basketball: Nigeria’s D’Tigress lose Olympics opener to Team USA

Basketball: Nigeria’s D’Tigress lose Olympics opener to Team USA
USA’s Brittney Griner (R) fights for the ball with Nigeria’s Victoria Macaulay in the women’s preliminary round group B basketball match between Nigeria and USA during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama on July 27, 2021. Photo: AFP

The women's basketball team of Nigeria, D'Tigress, have lost their Tokyo 2020 Olympics opening match to the United States by 81-72 on Tuesday at the Saitama Super Arena, Japan.

Nigeria attempted to become the first African nation to win an Olympic contest in women's basketball since 2004 when the team went 1-5 in Greece. No team from the continent has won a game since.

And while the Nigerian women marked their return to the Olympics for the first time since Athens 2004, the win was the Americans' 50th consecutive victory in the Olympics dating back to a loss in the semifinals of the 1992 Barcelona Games.

The US team lost their last Olympic game during the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, making them the favourites to win the duel.

D'Tigress showed more resilience against Team USA USBWNT despite losing their exhibition 93-62 in Las Vegas by a margin of 31 points, the rematch, this time in the major tournament, ended in a narrow defeat by a margin of 9 points.

D'Tigress gave the World No. 1 team a run for their money by taking a 20-17 lead in the first quarter and extended the lead to 25-20 before the U.S. took over, scoring 23 straight points and led 44-32 at the half as Nigeria regrouped to score seven of the final eight points of the second quarter.

A'Ja Wilson — one of six newcomers on the U.S. roster and Breanna Stewart scored 11 of the 23 points to turn the game around for the Americans by halftime.

Wilson ended the game with 19 points and 13 rebounds in her Olympic debut to help the in the opener for both teams.

At the end of the third quarter, U.S. USBWNT led by 70-50 and they were up by 75-55 in the fourth quarter before Nigeria scored 12 straight points to cut it to eight with 3:19 left.

Ezinne Kalu scored 16 to lead Nigeria to make the game difficult for the Americans, Nigeria lost by 81-72 with their head up high ahead of Friday's second game against France before their third against hosts, Japan.

According to ESPN, It was the first time that a team had come within single digits of the U.S. since a four-point win over Russia in the semifinals of the 2004 Athens Games.

"It's a mix of disappointment but also encouragement for us because we wanted some rhythm, and I think we got it toward the end," said Nigeria's Adaora Elonu. "So if we can carry it on for the next game it'll be good. But I think it's good we got it under 10 because here in this tournament all points matter."

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