Vying for a third place finish in their final game of the Stankovic Cup, the Nigerian Senior Men Basketball team ended their tournament campaign on a winning note after a hard fought 70-67 win over Puerto Rico in Tuesday’s third place match-up. In a rematch of the earlier rounds, D’Tigers put in a grueling performance to ensure that they came away with the win, getting their revenge for the previous two loses.
Despite starting the game very strongly led by lively guard Richard Oruche, the Puerto Ricans managed to erase a five point deficit mid-way through the second quarter as the first half ended 28 apiece. The second half started with the Puerto Ricans taking control of the game, however, in a stark contrast from their previous games, the Nigerian team managed to weather the storm and stayed within reach led by veteran Captain Olumide Oyedeji who was big on both ends of the floor, most especially down the stretch to finish with 16 points and 16 rebounds including 6/6 from the stripe. Former Virginia Military standout Stan Okoye also came up big in the fourth, hitting two key three-pointers as Nigeria came back from an eight points deficit, Okoye finished with 13 points and 9 rebounds in the game.
Down 59-61 with about two minutes left in the game, Okoye hit his second straight three to give Nigeria the lead at 62-61, and as the game reached its climax, twice the Nigerian team went to their leader Oyedeji, and twice the former NBA Draft pick converted from strong moves on the low block to give the Nigerian team some breathing space. Up 68-64 with about seven seconds left, Puerto Rico hit a three pointer to set up a nervy finale for the Nigerian team, on the ensuing possession, Stanley Gumut went to the line after getting fouled, and hit both free throws, giving Nigeria a three points lead. With four seconds remaining, the Puerto Ricans still had a chance to tie the game but they would fail to convert on another three pointer, giving the Nigerian team an important victory as they wrapped up their tour of China. Four players finished in double figures in scoring, Oyedeji (16), Okoye (13), Gumut (11) and Oruche (11). The Nigerian team out-rebounded their opponents 41-34, and shot 41% from the field.
The team must now regroup for the final phase of the training camp with some expected dates set for the U.S and Europe, before embarking on their journey to the Ivory Coast for Afrobasket.
Andy Ogide – 9.7 pts & 8 rbds
Stan Okoye – 10.2 pts & 4.3 rbds
Olumide Oyedeji – 6.6 pts & 7.8 rbds
Stanley Gumut – 6.1 pts & 2.8 rbds
Nkem Ojougboh – 4.6 pts & 3.5 rbds
Richard Oruche – 7.9 pts & 2.1 rbds
Abubakar Usman – 5.8pts & 2.0 rbds
Abdulwahab Yahaya – 4.1 pts & 1.7 rbds
Ayodeji Egbeyemi – 2.9 pts & 2.7 rbds
Kelechi Anuna – 5.6 pts & 1.3 rbds
Mike Ohiero – 0.9 pts & 0.7 rbds