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Champions D’Tigers took a big leap towards their title defence at the 2017 FIBA Africa Championship in Tunisia and Senegal after defeating co-hosts Senegal 76-71 in a pulsating semi-final clash on Friday to book a place in Saturday’s final.
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The coach Alex Nwora side will play second co-hosts Tunisia, who defeated Morocco 60-52, in Tunis as they seek to retain the title they won on the same soil in 2015.
In the tense meeting between the two West African rivals, D’Tigers dominated the first three quarters of the game and lost the last one to the Lions.
Nigeria took the first quarter 15-12 before extending their lead at half time with a 19-17 win in the second quarter. D’Tigers took the third quarter narrowly 18-16 but the Lions rallied back in the last quarter 26-24.
Captain Ike Diogu continued his impressive run in the competition as he weighed in 17 points, 14 rebounds, one assist and one steal. Bryant Mbamalu had the highest score for D’Tigers as he got 19 points, seven rebounds and one assist while Ike Iroegbu scored 18 points and three rebounds and Ike Nwamu had 10 points and two rebounds.
Senegal also had four players on double figure points. Maurice Ndour had 14 points and four rebounds while Clevin Hannah had 13 points and seven rebounds. Gorgui Dieng had 14 points and Mouhammad Faye had 10 points and four rebounds.
In a feisty match, which saw the back board replaced after it got broken when Youssoupha Ndoye dunked a shot, Nigeria converted 61.54 per cent of their two-point field goal against Senegal’s 50 per cent. The Lions converted 32 per cent of their three-point field goals against D’Tigers’ 12 per cent. Senegal had one steal against Nigeria’s four.
Senegal had 25 points from their bench while Nigeria had eight. D’Tigers converted 70.37 per cent of their free throws but Senegal converted 69.23 per cent of theirs.
D’Tigers have lost only a match enroute to Saturday’s final. The Nigerians began their title defence with a 78-77 win over Ivory Coast in their first match in Group A before they cruised to a 90-67 defeat of Mali but they suffered an 83-77 loss to DR Congo in their last group match.
They defeated Cameroon 106-91 in the quarter-final on Thursday before Friday’s win over Senegal.
Co-hosts Tunisia, who are unbeaten in the tournament, topped Group C after winning all their matches. They beat Cameroon 68-51 before defeating Rwanda 78-60 and beating Guinea 64-59. In the quarterfinal, they beat DR Congo 81-60 and then followed it up with a 60-52 win over fellow North Africans Morocco in Friday’s semi-final.
Before Saturday’s clash, Nigeria and Tunisia have met seven times – the most recent of which was a 70-59 victory for D’Tigers in the semi-finals of the 2015 AfroBasket. Nigeria have won five of the meetings while the Tunisians have had victory on two occasions.