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Argentina vs Nigeria
2006 FIBA World Championship, Sendai, Japan
23/08/2006Game Report, Argentina vs Nigeria 98-64, GROUP A

SENDAI (FIBA World Championship) - For those who were concerned, Andres Nocioni showed his ankle was just fine as he led Argentina to their third consecutive easy win, 98-64 over Nigeria.

Nocioni had 23 points in 18 minutes and didn't miss a single shot, going five for five from three-point land and four for four inside the arc.

"I don't think I've ever played a game where I didn't miss a shot - at least not for the national team," Nocioni said afterwards.

Argentina looked well-rested after their day off and each of their first three baskets were all three-pointers, Nocioni opening the festivities before Manu Ginobili hit one of his own and Nocioni hit another one. He would finish the first quarter with 12 points - all on shots from beyond the arc.

Nigeria were in good shape too in the early stages and tied the score at 9-9 on a three-point play by Ekene Ibekwe.

But, as had been the case in the Olympic champions' last two games, this prompted the start of a great run for Sergio Hernandez's men.

Ginobili had a three-point play of his own and a three-pointer that sandwiched Nocioni's third shot from downtown before Scola added a lay-up for the first double-digit lead of the day 20-9.

Nigeria fought back behind Gabe Muoneke and Ime Udoka who connected from long distance to close the gap to nine at the end of the first quarter, 29-20.

The second quarter was a bit flat for both teams. Nigeria settled for too many lazy shots and tried to overpower their opponents inside - to no avail.

As for Argentina, they didn't get quite the same lift from their bench as they did against Lebanon and Venezuela as their shooting and overrall organisation was a bit off.

This gave Sam Vincent's men a chance to get cut their deficit down to 11 at the end of the first half, 41-30, as the backcourt duo of Ebi Ere and Udoka combined for a 7-0 run.

However, after the break it was the turn of Argentina's backcourt to turn it on.

Ginobili had a personal 6-2 run - including a spectacular coast to coast lay up - and Pepe Sanchez made three shots from behind the arc as the lead all of a sudden jumped to 20, 62-42.

Sanchez's last three-pointer beat the third quarter buzzer and saw Argentina enter the game's last 10 minutes ahead 73-47.

Nocioni - who hadn't played since the first quarter - checked back into the game to put the finishing touches on a fine performance, as he hit two more three-pointers and several long jumpers.

Argentina were even able to put on a show for the fans as Fabricio Oberto threw a nice alley oop to Carlos Delfino who cut down the lane and caught it for a two-hand slam.

And Delfino then threw an alley oop to Nocioni who sofly guided the ball into the hoop.

Ginobili added 20 points and was able to rest again, playing only 17 minutes. Scola chipped in with 12 points.

Gabe Muoneke led the way with 10 points for Nigeria.

Vincent admitted after the game that his team didn't play with the same intensity in the second half as it did before half-time as they looked ahead to their last group game against Lebanon.

"I give credit to Argentina for playing another great game of basketaball. I'd say they are a tribute to what you can do with a group of players who've been together for a long time. That's what we aim for. Today we played hard and smart for much of the first half but then we thought we'd try and save some of our energy for tomorrow's crucial game."

Hernandez emphasised how important this win was for his players.

"With this result, we now know that we will finish the group stages as the top team in our group and that's very important for our next round," he said.

"I don't think the final score does Nigeria justice. They are a very good and improving team and they really pushed us hard."

By Simon Wilkinson