Lithuanians crush Nigeria to get off the mark in London

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Lithuania earned their first preliminary round victory of the London 2012 Olympic Games on Tuesday, a 72-53 triumph over Nigeria in group A of the men’s basketball competition at the Basketball Arena.

Both teams advanced to London 2012 from a qualifying tournament in Venezuela but there was a clear gulf between them as 12 points from Darius SONGALIA (LTU) paced a balanced assault from Lithuania.

The Lithuanians, again backed by noisy travelling supporters, produced an improved performance from their disappointing loss to Argentina on Sunday, controlling the game as they led from start to finish.

Nigeria’s physical frontcourt posed problems at times but the experience of the 2008 Olympic semifinalists saw them pull away convincingly.

A 10-0 run from the Lithuanians in the second period opened up a 29-11 advantage but Nigeria’s best spell delivered a 10-1 spurt that brought them back to trail only 34-27 at half-time.

But a 14-5 start to the second half, sparked by consistent offensve execution, was too hot for Nigeria to handle and a 1-16 three-point shooting performance killed off any thoughts of a comeback as their rivals moved as much as 23 points in front.

Al-Farouq AMINU (NGR) led Nigeria with 12 points and 11 rebounds.

Comments from the team members:

Ayodele BAKARE (NGR) – coach

On problems in the team:
“We had a few injuries and sickness in the last few weeks, we could not play our usual aggressive basketball. On our bench we had four players that were hardly fit, three that could not even step on the court, so we had that to contend with that. We’ll see what the doctors do in the next couple of days.”

On the defeat by Lithuania:
“We didn’t do anything well. We couldn’t shoot into a lake.”

On what he thinks of the officials:
“One of the referees took things personally on the team. I’m not usually one to complain about officials but they have to rise above their egos. But then that is not to take away from the great game that Lithuania played.”

On which team can win men’s basketball gold at the London 2012:
“I have only three names on my mind, the USA, the United States and the US.”

On facing the USA in their next game:
“We are like plucky, arrogant, little British bulldogs. We get stuck into anything that crosses our path.”

“They happen to be in our way. We steamroller everything that is in our way.”

“It will be great to play against the Dream Team but it would be great to play in the quarterfinals.”

Tony SKINN (NGR)

On the defeat by Lithuania :
“Lithuania played a better game, they made easy shots. We have got to find a better way to put it together. We only made one 3-point shot and three assists, and we’re not going to win big games playing like that. I don’t think they are a better team, but tonight they were.”

Chamberlain OGUCHI (NGR)

On the defeat to Lithuania:
“We did a good job of coming back, we cut it (the lead) down to just seven points, we showed we can play at that level.”

“We just fell apart and stopped executing on offence.”

On what Nigeria need to change to avoid fouls:
“We have got to keep our hands up, we can’t control every foul but we have got to keep them up and away.”

Alade AMINU (NGR)

On losing:
“We didn’t move the ball as well as we could, we are a very young team, we have only been together three weeks to a month.”

On their prospects for the rest of the competition:
“We thrive on adversity. We are ready to bounce back, nobody said it would be easy. Hopefully the defeat will wake us up.”

Ike DIOGU (NGR)

On the defeat to Lithuania:
“Defensively we played well for the most part, we just struggled offensively.”

On what they need to do to improve:
“We cannot go through offensive droughts like we did tonight because when you do that it makes it tough to win games.”

On facing the USA in their next game:
“It’s a challenge that we are looking forward to and we are excited.”

“We will not be intimidated by those guys. A lot of us went to school in the US and have played against those guys.”

“We have no reason to feel overwhelmed. We just didn’t play very well today and that makes it tough to win.”


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