Russia have qualified for this month’s Olympic Games in London following an 85-77 win over Nigeria in Caracas.
Nigeria still have a chance to book their tickets to England’s capital city, but will have to win tomorrow’s 3rd/4th place game against the loser of the Lithuania-Dominican Republic game later on.
Alexey Shved led Russia with 22 points with Andrei Kirilenko hitting 19 points as they look forward to London in just over two weeks. Nigeria were led by 16 points each from Ade Dagunduro and Ike Diogu, the latter pulling down 14 rebounds for a double-double.
Both teams traded baskets to begin with, Kirilenko hit a three only for Anthony Skinn to answer right back with a three of his own to tie the game at 9-9.
Russia got the better of the opening exchanges to lead 26-23 after a high-octane first quarter.
Nigeria though let their frustrations get the better of them in the second quarter. They resorted to one-on-one basketball which led to either missed shots or turnovers leading to easy Russian scores, and at the half, Russia had a comfortable 46-31 lead.
Russia started the third quarter by restricting Nigeria’s shooting opportunities and racing out to a 53-33 lead within two minutes of the second half beginning. Russia headed into the final period up 68-53.
But with the Russians in foul trouble to start the fourth quarter, Nigeria saw a window of opportunity and attacked the rim and at the same time, as Kaun and Kirilenko picked up their fourth fouls early in the period.
Just when Nigeria cut the lead to five off a three-point play from Skinn, which in turn fouled Kaun out, thinking they had the momentum, Russia answered back through Vitaliy Fridzon and Shved to restore a double-digit cushion and end the African nation’s challenge on this night.