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Yacoubou powers France into Quarter-Finals
NANTES (2016 FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament) - Isabelle Yacoubou stepped up when her team needed her most as the hosts of the 2016 FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament (WOQT) advanced to the Quarter-Finals thanks to a 70-52 win over New Zealand on Tuesday.
Yacoubou had game-highs of 19 points and 11 rebounds off the bench and France secured their second Group A win in as many games.
Turning Point: Knowing that a defeat against New Zealand would potentially impact the team's morale, coach Valerie Garnier opted for a taller although slower line-up with Yacoubou, Endy Miyem and Laetitia Kamba late in the third quarter. The strategy paid off as the French headed into the last quarter up 52-46 - their largest lead of the game.
Stats Don't Lie: Six lead changes through the first three quarters reflected the competitiveness of the game. And by outscoring New Zealand 18-6 in the final frame, France showed resilience and determination to keep alive the dream of claiming one of the five places at stake for the Rio Olympics.
Game Hero: When Yacoubou was taken out of the game with 5:25 left to play, local fans erupted with chants of 'Yacoubou, Yacoubou, Yacoubou,' reflecting their gratitude to the 1.90m center, who destroyed New Zealand's defense.
The Bottom Line: While France are now just a potential victory from Rio, New Zealand need to turn around fast with a do-or-die clash against Cuba less than 24 hours away.