Afrobasket: Troubled Silverbacks Shock Nigeria To Storm First Ever Quarterfinal

Tuesday, August 31
*Nigeria 68-80 Uganda

Uganda’s senior men basketball team, the Silverbacks stunned Nigeria to reach their first ever quarterfinal at the Afrobasket.

The historical 80-68 win on Tuesday against Africa’s number one, comes as Uganda continue to live on borrowed time in Kigali due to inadequate funds.

The victory was built on an impressive start that saw the Silverbacks take a quick 6-0 early lead before establishing a 21-point advantage midway through the clash.

Uganda who finished third in Group D sets up a quarterfinal tie with Cape Verde on Thursday.

Its the first win for Uganda against the 2015 Afrobaseket winners in recent memory – Nigeria beat Uganda twice (102-86 and 109-66) in 2019 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers.

The two teams will meet again in 2023 World Cup Qualifiers later this year after the draw held earlier in the day.

Robinson Opong shot 6-of-10 from three-point range on his way to garnering a team high 19 points while Ishmail Wainright, Arthur Kaluma and Deng Geu scored 11 points each.

Wainright also filled the stat sheet with 11 rebounds, six assists and three steals in a game Uganda excellently shot 42% from the field.

Ishmail Wainright going for a layup. FIBA photo

After a disappointing loss against South Sudan, the Silverbacks came into Tuesday’s match with renewed energy and put in strong effort in a game they led from the word go.

They conceded just six points from turnovers, picked 28 points from the bench while providing adequate rim protection.

Uganda led 33-13 on 15 of 31 shooting at halftime, and a couple of deep threes from Opong and Deng Geu pegged back Nigeria every time they threatened to comeback into the contest.

Uganda (red) putting pressure on the ball. FIBA photo

It is a painful loss for pre-tournament favourites Nigeria who came into the tournament on the back of their poor campaign at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Nigeria qualified for the AfroBasket 2021 with a 6-0 record after thrashing South-Sudan, Mali and Rwanda but have been left reeling after Tuesday’s loss.

Uzodinma Utomi scored 23 points and Stephen Domingo added 13 in a losing effort but Coach Mike Brown will feel that his boys could have done better on the day they will want to forget easily.

Uganda Punches Above Weight Amidst Financial Troubles

The financial troubles of this team have been told in all angles, and they continue to escalate each passing day.

The Silverbacks almost missed their trip to Morocco to complete their second window assignment due to lack of funds, and they had to borrow funds to facilitate the match which they later won to seal their third straight Afrobasket qualifcation.

Lack of funds affected their preparations for the tournament and had to cancel the training camp in Egypt.

Days prior to the tournament, the team received funds from the Government, the famous sack incident, but the Federation used the money to pay back the money lender who helped team make the trip to Morocco a success.

Fast forward, Uganda arrived in Kigali just six days to tip off the tournament, and it was on God’s mercy that the team was given only three days in quarantine.

With poor preps, it was going to be a big ask for Uganda to win a single game at the tournament.

They lost to Senegal 93:55 but bounced back to beat Cameroon, one of Africa’s powerhouse.

The team lost to South Sudan in a closely contested affair, 86-84, to finish third in a group and hence a place in the playoff round.

Uganda persevering amidst challenges

And now, they have extended their ‘illegal’ stay in Kigali.

The team is risking getting thrown out of the team hotel and the FIBA AfroBasketball tournament after failing to raise the required funds.

“Currently our national team is accommodated in Kigali on credit as we promised FIBA and the host that money will eventually come,” said FUBA president Nasser Sserunjogi.

“FIBA and the host gave us until Sunday the 29th to clear all our outstanding dues or else we are kicked out of the tournament. We have run out of excuses and we are afraid of being embarrassed.

“We have tried as much as possible to keep this away from the team such that they can focus on playing the game, however we have run out of time. We are afraid that if this happens, we shall be greatly embarrassed as a nation. This is to therefore kindly request for the government of Uganda to bail us out.”

Uganda face Cape Verde on Thursday and will fancy their chances against a team they beat in the first window of the qualifiers in November last year.



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