22 November, 2021
28 February, 2023
13 Bechir Ben Yahia (TUN)
Game Report
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Tunisia keep eye on Africa's last ticket for World Cup


ALEXANDRIA (Egypt) - A suffocating and aggressive defense paved the way for Tunisia's 70-53 win over Senegal on Saturday in Alexandria with just one game left for the African champions at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 African Qualifiers.

Since Egypt and South Sudan picked Group F's two automatics slots for this year's World Cup, Tunisia feel they still have a chance to return to FIBA's flagship tournament for the second time in row. And this was reflected in the way Tunisians celebrated the victory over Senegal.

The teams that finish first and second in Groups E and F qualify automatically for the World Cup while the last spot goes to the best third-placed team from across both groups.

"It's not over. But we don't know, anything is possible," reflected Tunisia head coach Erman Kunter after the game.

Tunisia stepped on the floor knowing that beating Senegal was imperative, and doing it by 11 points or more, would keep them in the hunt for a World Cup berth. The last time Senegal and Tunisia faced off in the first round of Group F, Senegal prevailed 73-63. 

And, to keep their World Cup's aspirations alive, they prevented Senegal's leading scorer Brancou Badio from playing at his level, and the strategy paid off.

Badio, who had a stellar display on Friday night, had more turnovers (6) than he had points (4) in a night that Lamine Sambe took the leading role for Senegal.

Lamine Sambe did everything to try to save the day for Senegal, but it wasn't meant to be

Sambe had a 5-for-6 shooting, including a perfect 3-for-3 from behind the arc to finish with a team-high of 14 points.

Despite Tunisia's aggressive defense, Senegal trailed only one at the break (30-29), and looked hopeful to turn things around, but Omar Abada wouldn't allow this to happen.

Abada was having a shooting clinic, making shots from almost every corner. 

By halftime, Abada had 13 points to be the only player to score in double digits. He converted 6 of his 9 three-pointers attempts to finish with a game-high of 26 points. Michael Roll added 14 points and Firas Lahiani, who opened the scoreline with drive to the basket, contributed 11 points and 9 rebounds.  

TURNING POINT: For most of the third quarter, everything seems to be working in favour of Tunisia, while Senegal looked helpless. 

Bamba Diallo, who spent the first three quarters of the game on the bench, buried a three-pointer in his first attempt to bring the game back to 58-48, but the worst was yet to come for Senegal.

Firas Lahiani hit a buzzer-beater three-pointer that gave Tunisia their largest and first double digit lead (53-42) to close the third quarter, and Senegal were unable to fight back. Tunisia went to close the game with a 17-point advantage (70-53.)

GAME HERO: Omar Abada put his body on the line, and others followed suit. Just like a real hero, Abada looked tireless for most of the 37:58 minutes that he spent on the floor. 

STATS DON'T LIE: Senegal's only lead (13-11) happened early in the game. But having Brancou Badio neutralised couldn't have been any more damaging for Senegal. Tunisia led all but 3:10 minutes of the game.

BOTTOM LINE: It was an evenly-matched game until the third quarter. After that Senegal seem to have ran out of gas, while Tunisia's confidence grew after each point scored in the final quarter.  Neither Tunisia nor Senegal knew what their African Qualifiers future held before the game, but things look more promising for Tunisia now.