30 August, 2014
14 September
Gorgui DIENG (Senegal)
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Senegal look to forget limping finish to group play

MADRID (FIBA Basketball World Cup) - Senegal picked up two wins in Group B of the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup to advance to the Final Phase of the tournament.

But center Gorgui Dieng and the team enter their Round of 16 game against Spain looking to forget the end of the group stage.

After beating Puerto Rico and Croatia in back-to-back games and create a buzz around the team, Senegal limped into the knockout round with back-to-back losses to Argentina and Philippines to finish fourth in the group. 

"We're just looking at the big picture. We wanted to make it to the second round and we did it. We are just happy to still be playing and now we have to see what we can do against Spain. But right now, it doesn't feel that good," Dieng said after the 81-79 loss to Philippines.

"We still have a lot to work on."

Senegal take on the host nation Spain on Saturday and the Africans will be heavy underdogs. Still, Dieng and his teammates have already accomplished more than they expected after the country lost all five games at the 2006 FIBA World Championship.

Before the tournament, Dieng said: "My goal is to make it to the second round at least. I don't want to lose every game. We don't have excuses. We have a lot of potential in this basketball team."

While other players have shown that they can play at the world stage, the 24-year-old Dieng is still Senegal's leader.

But teams have been making it harder and harder for the Minnesota Timberwolves big man, who had two big double-doubles (21 points and 14 rebounds and 18 points and 13 rebounds) to start the tournament but was held to 24 points on 7-of-21 shooting in the final two losses.

"It's been tough for me, they are double-teaming me a lot now. But I need to find my way to score and also help my team play," said Dieng.

Helping the team play has also meant being a leader on defense.

If I bring that energy and make the others understand that defense wins games, that will be good for us. - Dieng

"Good defense leads to a good offense. Once I had in my mind that I had to stop these people I just played with a lot of heart. I got used to it."

Still, there's a huge test waiting for Senegal in mighty Spain even though Senegal are playing with house money now that they’ve reached the knockout round.