Nigeria’s women national Basketball team, D’Tigress gave a good account of themselves as they went toe-to-toe with powerhouse USA before eventually succumbing 72-81 to the Americans.
Ezinne Kalu scored 16 to lead the Nigerians who, interestingly, had 17 more field goal attempts than the U.S. but made six less shots.
Despite the pedigree of the Americans, Nigeria was far from being intimidated as they jumped to an 8-1 lead and the U.S. missed its first four shots with four turnovers. The Nigerians were up 20-17 after one quarter and extended the lead to 25-20 before the U.S. took over, scoring 23 straight points.
The U.S. led 44-32 at the half as Nigeria regrouped to score seven of the final eight points of the second quarter.
USA pulled away to lead by 70-50 at the end of the third quarter and maintained a 20-gap lead at 75-55 before Nigeria scored 12 straight points to cut it to eight with 3:19 left.
The late rally rattled the USA but they held on to win a 50th consecutive Olympic game. The Nigerian ladies, with the result, became the first team to get within single digits of the U.S. since Russia lost in the semifinals of the 2004 Athens Games by four.
Talking statistics, no African team from the continent has won a game since Nigeria did in 2004 in London but there are hopes that D’Tigress can rewrite their own record as they still have Japan and France to play in their preliminary group.
Nigeria will next play France, which lost 70-74 to Japan, on Friday.