Nigeria came into Saturday’s Olympic preliminary round game against Argentina looking similar to the way the United States had smoked them on Thursday by 83 points.
Argentina got whatever they wanted early on Saturday as they held a 20-point lead going into halftime, but then Nigeria played a much better second half, though in the end, Argentina still won 93-79.
San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili (13 points, 8 assists, 2 steals) wasn’t the leading scorer in this contest, but his passing was huge for the Argentines in the game. Here’s the rundown by halves.
First half: Argentina (ARG) 57, Nigeria (NGR) 37
Argentina didn’t have to do much against Nigeria in terms of attacking the basket in the first half, as they made 8-of-11 three pointers. Easy shots usually means great passing, and Argentina displayed that as they assisted on 18 of their 21 made first half baskets. Andres Nocioni led all scorers with 14 points at the half, while Carlos Delfino added 11 points. Ginobili and Leo Gutierrez scored 9 points each, and Luis Scola tallied his entire eight first half points in the first quarter.
Manu at the half: Ginobili shot 3-fo-4 in the first half for nine points, but his four assists were his major area of impact as those usually led to open 3-pointers for his teammates.
Second half: ARG 93, NGR 79
Argentina’s outside shooting cooled off in the second half as they only made 3-of-9 three pointers. Meanwhile, Nigeria outscored Argentina in both the third and fourth quarters for a 42-36 point edge in the second half, but in the end it still wasn’t enough to erase the big first half deficit they faced.
Scola (22 points) was a force in the second half as he scored 10 of his 14-second half points in the third quarter. Ginobili was once again primarily a facilitator in this game as he finished with 13 points, eight assists, and two steals. Delfino added seven points in the second half to finish with 18, while Noicioni would only make three more points in the second half to finish with 17.
Former Spur Ike Diogu led the way for Nigeria with 16 points, while Derrick Obasohan added 15. Chamberlain Oguchi scored 12 points, and Al-Farouq Aminu posted 10 points as well.
With the win, Argentina moves to 3-1 in Group A pool play. They have one game remaining, and it’s a big one as they face the United States who barely escaped with a win against Lithuania on Saturday, a team Argentina blew out last week. Argentina and the U.S. will play Monday for the final game of the Preliminary round, before the second round begins.