Cote d'Ivoire advance to AfroBasket 2021 Final after nail-biting win over Senegal
KIGALI (Rwanda) - Senegal once again failed to break their Semi-Finals jinx as the Lions went down to Cote d'Ivoire on Saturday at the 30th edition of FIBA AfroBasket at the Kigali Arena, Rwanda.
Four Ivorians scored in double digits to help the two-time AfroBasket champions beat Senegal 75-65.
Matt Costello sparked Cote d'Ivoire at both ends of the floor, finishing with 17 points and 12 points - his second double-double in the tournament -; Vafessa Fofana - who picked his third foul in the opening three minutes - and Nisre Mimi Zouzoua combined for 24 points and Souleyman Diabate came off the bench with critical shots to finish with 14 points.
Cote d'Ivoire stepped on the court determined to return to the AfroBasket Final for the first time since 2009 when they fell short to Angola.
Senegal head coach Boniface Ndong admitted that "Ivory Coast made a solid game, it could have been a bit closer. It's a tough loss for us. They deserved the win; they have a good coach and they deserve to be where they are right now."
Cote d'Ivoire did not leave anyone in doubt from the tip-off to the final buzzer as a well coordinated combination between the back-court and the front-court.
The 'Elephants' led for all but 1:37 minutes in the intense and highly-contested game.
Nisre Mimi Zouzoua (Cote d'Ivoire)
At some point in the game, the Ivorians led by as many as eleven points, but Senegal refused to go down easily.
Though Senegal center Gorgui Dieng led the floor with 24 points and 11 rebounds - his third double-double performance in the AfroBasket 2021, and added three block shots with efficiency rating of 29, but his effort was not enough to save his side from defeat.
Dieng picked an unsportsmanlike foul, followed by a technical foul in the waning seconds of the game, before fouling out.
Matt Costello (Cote d'Ivoire) and Gorgui Dieng (Senegal) offered an intriguing battle throughout the game
Brancou Badio, the other Senegalese player to score in double digits, finished with 15 points, but the biggest difference between the two sides came from their reserves where Cote d'Ivoire's bench outscored Senegal's 24-16.
It's Senegal's third straight AfroBasket Semi-Finals defeat, having lost to Egypt in 2013 and Nigeria (2015 and 2017).
With the win, Cote d'Ivoire remain undefeated in the AfroBasket 2021 with a 5-0 mark, while Senegal dropped their first game to stay 4-1.
Senegal will now face off against Cape Verde in Sunday's Third-Game game while Cote d'Ivoire will try to spoil Tunisia's attempt to become the first national team to win back-to-back AfroBaskets since Angola in 2009.