Nigeria defeated Lithuania 86-80 earlier today at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Caracas, Venezuela.
The game saw Nigeria take second place forcing the hosts, Venezuela into last and out of the tournament. Lithuania remained top of the group regardless of the result.
Obasohan led the scoring for Nigeria with 20 and shooting 5/8 from 3 point territory. Kleiza led Lithuania with 22 with good shooting across the board.
The Nigerian and Lithuanian fans were in a league of their own creating a great atmosphere the entire game.
Lithuania’s offence ran mainly through Kleiza who was isolated on numerous early plays with limited success at beating his man off the dribble.
Nigeria saw some good shooting from distance and opened up a five point lead. Point guard Mantas Kalnietis ended the run with a break-away dunk to give his team back some momentum.
Foul trouble hurt Nigeria. They were in the penalty with 4:23 left in the first – ending with 9 as a team – forcing the coach to make some substitutions.
To add to their troubles, big man, Oyedeji left the game after being fouled hard going towards the basket.
Even with foul and injury trouble Nigeria kept the game tied, ending the first 20-20 with Al-Farouq Aminu keeping the team together with his good all-around play.
The second quarter was back and forth with both teams making shots, with no major runs to note early on. The underdogs, Nigeria were giving their all and proving very difficult for the European basketball giants.
Tony Skinn continued his good outside shooting into the 2nd forcing Lithuanian coach Kemzura to call a timeout to stop Nigeria’s 6-0 run.
Obasohan shot well throughout the game enhancing Nigeria’s lead. His team was running the counter attack perfectly and proved too much for Lithuania to handle.
Jasikevicius’ great outside shooting, brought Lithuania back into the game with 5 straight points. The veteran point guard controlled the game keeping his team close. Lithuania put together an 8-0 run, helped by the poor shooting of the Nigerians.
The half ended 41-38 to Nigeria who made use of the extra point from beyond the arc with 6 makes to only 2 by Lithuania.
The 3rd quarter started with the familiar site of an Obasohan three-pointer which he soon replicated. He finished shooting 5/8 from down town and was a big factor in their sizable leads throughout. His high-percentage shooting gave his team an 11 point lead in the 3rd.
The game began to get heated as Sarunas Jasikevicius fouled Aminu on the break, much to Al-Farouq’s displeasure.
Much of the problem for Lithuania was their presence inside. The Nigerian’s controlled the paint, forcing outside shots and out-rebounding their opponents in the 3rd.
Lithuania looked to capitalise from deep with Linas Kleiza’s continuing outside stroke. However his shooting was not enough as Nigeria kept answering. To end the 3rd Oguchi scored his first of two baskets in the game putting the team up by 10, 67-57.
The fourth began well for the Lithuanians erasing all by 1 point from the 10 point deficit going into the 4th with a 9 point run.
Early in the quarter the Nigerians were not scoring from the outside, allowing Lithuania back into the game. This did not continue however with a big three from Skinn to increase his teams lead.
The bad luck continued for Lithuania as Jonas Valanciunas missed an easy dunk that could have cut the gap to only 3.
Anthony Skinn remained hot, hitting another 3 in the closing minutes to put his team up by 8 and out of reach for Lithuania.
With the first place clinched Lithuania decided not to foul leaving Nigeria to take the win 86-80.
Lithuania wins the group to go through to the quarter finals. Nigeria finishes second knocking out the hosts Venezuela. Lithuania will face whoever comes first between Puerto Rico or Greece and Nigeria will play the team that comes second.