Gazelles coach Carlos Alberto Antuna did not shy away from expressing his belief in tactics after completing a ‘mission impossible’ against 11-time winners Senegal at 2023 FIBA Afrobasket in Kigali, Rwanda.
The 85-83 victory for Uganda’s women basketball team on Saturday, marked one of the biggest upsets in Women Basketball on the Continent.
Away from Senegal’s pedigree that is clearly backed up by being the record winners, 11 of 12 players on the Gazelles team – outside captain Flavia Oketcho – are playing at this stage for the very first time.
“Before the game I knew we were able to compete, I was 100% sure that with every single drill we would have one moment to put the pressure on them and have a chance, they have the most experienced roster and we have one of the youngest,” Antuna said after the game.
“If you are playing these big and talented teams like Mali and Senegal, in my opinion you can’t just go there and play Man-to-man defence and expect to win.
“So we needed to do something different. I believe in the Zone, I believe in the tactics and game plans and the Girls believe in me and the plans and that’s why we are competing.”
With an undersized roster, Antuna went for the Zone defense — a scheme in which defenders guard areas of the court instead of individual players — as it was against Mali in Friday’s 80-66 loss.
And it paid off as expected given African teams’ weak outside shooting, with Senegal shooting 15-of-50 from three on the night.
Uganda managed to slow down Senegal, a side with some of the Continent’s most feared players led by Aya Traore.
Jane Asinde filled the stat sheet with 20 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals, a day after struggling against Mali.
Antuna said of Asinde’s performance: “The X-factor was Jane Asinde, she was good on offense and also did a good job defensively, we had a good talk last night and she came up with 20 points. We scored in 60s against Mali but we got 80 because of her performance.”
Antuna said that the win is a “big prize” and something “we will not forget for sure.”
Asinde, who racked up fouls early once again, on improving against Senegal, commented that it was about “moving on” because she stayed “mentally prepared” throughout the contest.
“After the loss against Mali, the coach told me that today is over, you have to look forward for tomorrow, no pressure, we are going to take everything at a time, we are going to follow the game plan.”
Both Antuna and Asinde commended the fans who came to Kigali and those back at home for the support.
Antuna concluded: “FUBA want to improve women basketball in the country, starting from the qualifiers and up to this point, we have been building an identity, this is a first step, it’s not about winning one game or two, it’s about competing and try to keep building because these girls are coming stronger and stronger.”