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Why Senegal and Nigeria's African double was extra special

NEWCASTLE (Paul Nilsen's Women's Basketball Worldwide) - The biggest story so far of the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2018 has not just been Nigeria and Senegal making history.

The fact they grabbed landmark wins on the same game day in order to complete an African double, made it special. What made it extra special for me, was that they didn't do this (with respect) against a Korea and Argentina, they both beat European opposition.

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“It’s not over yet and we’re just getting started” @Proliife (22 pts in 🇳🇬’s #FIBAWWC win vs 🇹🇷)

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That in itself is a wake-up call for Europe. You can't take winning for granted anymore against African opposition (even if this is only slushing around sub-consciously), while of course it is a huge boon for women's basketball in Africa.

In case you missed it, Nigeria won their first ever game in this competition by beating 2012 and 2016 Olympians Turkey, while Senegal pipped Latvia to collecting a maiden triumph against European opposition at the event.

Both games were intriguing and I have to hand it to commentator Tereza Brantlova aka @teracek111 who called it on the bus journey to the Arena on the morning of the game. Not necessarily that they would both win, but telling us all about her experiences close-up at the AfroBasket Women last year.

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What’s better, the long three or the bench reaction? 🇳🇬👌🏿🥣 #FIBAWWC

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 Her assessment that African women's basketball is on the rise and that there were an array of skilled and athletic players was played out. It was also fascinating that she had taken time to praise third place Mali too - a team that missed out on a trip to Tenerife. 

I was not 100% convinced, although I was telling everyone that would listen that I did fear for Latvia, since Senegal had showed USA no respect whatsoever from a physical standpoint - which was impressive. So, if WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart was going to get some serous defensive attention, then Latvia would get even more. I was not sure the Baltic side would quite be able to withstand it.

Not that Senegal are a 'roughhouse team' - far from it. Indeed, they stuffed the highlights reel in a big way during that first half against the holders.

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💃🇸🇳 That's how you celebrate a historic win! #FIBAWWC 📽️ @lucky_lefty_4

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The other thing that was special and really stood out, is that both Senegal and Nigeria won in the clutch and had to show composure and a tough mentality to prevail. The execution at both ends of the floor by Senegal was great and when Nigeria had both Adaora Elonu and Ezinne Kalu foul out, they wobbled - but then recovered brilliantly in the closing 90 seconds to seal their historic chapter.

Nigerian play-caller Otis Hughley then gave great insight into how he had prepared the girls for these kind of scenarios and he also came up with my favorite quote of the tournament so far about this not being his first, second or third movie! In respect of having seen these kind of situations previously.

While paying tribute to the accomplishment, there is a sting in the tail. As you are reading this, Nigeria may have already undone much of their good work by potentially losing to Argentina.

I am thrilled with what has happened in terms of seeing two nations record high tide marks. But, this is all about momentum and making sure there is a sustained improvement. Not withstanding the well known and well documented issues that some African nations have had (and continue to have) in terms of their development as Federations and with their programs and resources - opportunity knocks for them.


The plain fact is that Nigeria were better. than Turkey They didn't get lucky. They started slowly, launched a great comeback and outplayed a team that has been a relative European powerhouse.

So, with this in mind, African basketball needs to show that this was not a fluke, a once in a decade thing. Instead, it must take this belief and have the confidence and willingness to capitalize on it and push on.

Perhaps the biggest barometer of their success will be whether the decision makers ever hand 3 spots to African nations at a future edition of the tournament.

For now though I am enjoying this #FIBAWWC party - quite aptly off the coast of Africa!

Paul Nilsen


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Paul Nilsen

Paul Nilsen

As a women's basketball specialist for FIBA and FIBA Europe, Paul Nilsen eats, sleeps and breathes women’s hoops and is incredibly passionate about promoting the women’s game - especially at youth level. In Women’s Basketball Worldwide, Paul scours the globe for the very latest from his beloved women’s basketball family.