Hosts Venezuela started their Olympic Qualifying campaign in great style by defeating Nigeria 71-69, in Caracas.
Venezuela’s prodigy Greivis Vasquez was the man of the match scoring 24 points and leading all the way his team in this win.
Ex-NBA big man Ike Diogu was the best player for Nigeria, recording a double-double with 14 points and 10 boards.
With a very enthusiastic home crowd, Venezuela and Nigeria entered this game with some cautions in terms of offense, with good shot selection and looking for the easy basket.
Musselman’s team went to the second quarter with a different attitude, winning the battle on the boards and playing aggressive defence to create a little momentum to take the lead at the half by two points.
It was a physical and scrappy first half for both teams with the referees letting the interior players put a lot of body on defensive possessions; Venezuela’s Vasquez was in foul trouble with 2 fouls and played limited minutes.
Venezuela started the third quarter with a great run led by 6 quick points from the Hornets Point Guard and a fast break by Cubillan to create an 11 point separation in the first five minutes but the athletic African players showed that they wanted to keep the game close, finishing the quarter only losing by 1.
The fourth quarter was almost entirely dominated by the hosts with great team offense, mostly with shots made by the role players (they had a 9 point lead) but like in the rest of the game Nigeria never gave up and made a comeback to put them only losing by 4 with 25 seconds on the clock but Venezuela would not lose this game.
In the last three plays of the match from Nigeria, Romero blocked two crucial shoots only letting Nigeria score a basket with 0.08s on the board to make Venezuela win this game 71-66.
Venezuela will play against one of the favourites to qualify Lithuania tomorrow, while Nigeria rests and will face Lithuania on July 4th.