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Sensational Cote d’Ivoire trounce Nigeria to maintain World Cup hopes
ABIDJAN (Cote d’Ivoire) – “Les Elephants” of Cote d’Ivoire have for themselves a night to remember, the night when they surpassed expectations and humbled one of the continent’s giants “D’Tigers” of Nigeria.
Humbling Nigeria is no common feat and the Ivorians must be credited for their ingenuity and ability to play with great fluency.
Nigeria came into the last window with an impressive 9-0 record and had made it clear after punching their ticket for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China that they wanted to end the qualifiers unbeaten.
"WE ARE PLAYING AT HOME AND WE HAVE A DUTY TO MAKE OUR COUNTRY PROUD. THIS PERFORMANCE TONIGHT WAS FOR OUR FANS"
Cote d’Ivoire’s captain Guy Edi was astonishing bringing more than just leadership to the court.
His 15points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists breathe life into “Les Elephants” hopes of a fourth World Cup stint in China. His teammate Jean Francois Kebe also chipped in 14 points, 5 rebounds and 2assists to spur the hosts to a 72-46 victory.
The Ivorians began the game in fine fettle dominating the first quarter 14-10, leading the second 28-19 but made a greater impact in the second half hitting in a double digit lead in the third quarter with a 55-31 edge before sealing a remarkable victory in the last quarter.
A win for Cote d’Ivoire means their aspirations for a World Cup spot are back on track provided they win their next two outings against Rwanda and Mali by a considerable point margin.
"We are playing at home and we have a duty to make our country proud. This performance tonight was for our fans. Nigeria are one of the best teams on the continent and we came in knowing what to expect," Edi told FIBA.basketball.
We executed our game plan properly and now we got this victory. For me, leadership is the ability to rise up to the occasion and carry the team forward in difficult circumstances. I was able to do that today because my mates created the spaces for me and we won," the 30-year-old explained.
"HATS OFF TO COTE D'IVOIRE WHO PLAYED GREAT BASKETBALL TODAY. WE'LL TRY TO DO BETTER IN THE NEXT TWO GAMES AND GET WINS"
Edi continued: "This victory brings us closer to China but obviously we must continue performing to worm our way through to China.
Meanwhile, Nigeria head coach Alex Nwora described his team's display as the most embarrassing loss ever in his stint at the helm of FIBA AfroBasket 2015 Champions.
"We could have done better to represent Nigeria. It’s never easy working in such conditions. Some of my players only joined us yesterday prior to today’s game but that’s no excuse for our performance.
"Hats off to Cote d’Ivoire who played great basketball today. We’ll try to do better in the next two games and get wins," the play-caller explained.
Host Cote d’Ivoire play Rwanda on Saturday before ending the qualifiers campaign on Sunday against Mali.
On the other hands, Nigeria will go up against Central African Republic on Saturday before Sunday’s showdown with Senegal.