Nigeria topple TBs
The Tall Blacks will enter next week’s FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament without a win in their build-up after falling 66-74 to Nigeria at San Carlos, Brazil.
Their third and final outing in a four-team tournament presented the Kiwis with their best chance of victory against the world’s 21st-ranked team – previous opponents Brazil and Greece were ranked 13th and fourth respectively.
And New Zealand began well enough, connecting on four three-pointers as they compiled an early seven-point lead to be 17-16 up after the opening quarter.
But momentum swung decisively Nigeria’s way early in the second period as they reeled off a 9-1 run that swept them into the ascendancy. By halftime, their advantage was 33-24 and they were cashing in on their athleticism on the offensive boards.
The Kiwis fell 15 points behind midway through the third quarter, but rallied somewhat behind three-pointers from Leon Henry and Everard Bartlett. They were still 41-51 in arrears entering the final period and couldn’t make much impression on that deficit down the stretch.
Point guard Lindsay Tait, who missed yesterday’s encounter with Greece through illness, was back up and about today, managing 16 minutes off the bench and contributing 10 points (2/3 3pt, 4/5 FT).
Captain Mika Vukona finished with 10 points and nine rebounds, while centre Alex Pledger had six of his 10 points in the final moments.
As a team, they shot just 32% from the field with more than half their attempts launched from beyond the three-point arc, where they were actually more accurate than at close range.
Compared to previous outings, they kept mistakes to a minimum – only 12 turnovers – but were beaten on the boards, conceding 17 offensive rebounds.
The team now travels to Caracas, Venezuela, to prepare for the OQT. They meet Macedonia in their first pool game next Wednesday (NZ time) and must finish in the top three to secure one of the last sports available at London next month.
Nigeria 74 (Al Farouk 16, Ugbouja 10) New Zealand 66 (Lindsay Tait 10, Mika Vukona 10, Alex Pledger 10, Everard Bartlett 9, Casey Frank 8, Leon Henry 6, Jeremiah Trueman 5, Jarrod Kenny 4, Tai Webster 4)
HT 33-24 (17-7)
Q3 51-41 (18-17)
FT 74-66 (23-25)