Nigeria’s women basketball team, D’Tigress, have lost their Tokyo 2020 Olympics opening match to the United States by 81-72 on Tuesday at the Saitama Super Arena, Japan.
Nigeria attempted to become the first African nation to win an Olympic contest in women’s basketball since 2004 when the team went 1-5 in Greece. No team from the continent has won a game since.
And while the Nigerian women marked their return to the Olympics for the first time since Athens 2004, the win was the Americans’ 50th consecutive victory in the Olympics dating back to a loss in the semifinals of the 1992 Barcelona Games.
D’Tigress showed more resilience against the USBWNT despite losing their exhibition 93-62 in Las Vegas, the rematch, this time in the major tournament, ended in a narrow defeat by a margin of 9 points.
D’Tigress took a 20-17 lead in the first quarter and extended the lead to 25-20 before the U.S. took over, scoring 23 straight points and led 44-32 at the half as Nigeria regrouped to score seven of the final eight points of the second quarter.
A’Ja Wilson — one of six newcomers on the U.S. roster and Breanna Stewart scored 11 of the 23 points to turn the game around for the Americans by halftime.
At the end of the third quarter, U.S. USBWNT led by 70-50 and they were up by 75-55 in the fourth quarter before Nigeria scored 12 straight points to cut it to eight with 3:19 left.
Ezinne Kalu scored 16 for Nigeria to set up a grand finale, but the experienced Americans closed out by 81-72.
It was the first time that a team had come within single digits of the U.S. since a four-point win over Russia in the semifinals of the 2004 Athens Games, as per ESPN.
“It’s a mix of disappointment but also encouragement for us because we wanted some rhythm, and I think we got it toward the end,” said Nigeria’s Adaora Elonu. “So if we can carry it on for the next game it’ll be good. But I think it’s good we got it under 10 because here in this tournament all points matter.”
Nigeria will be confident going into Friday’s second game against France before their third against hosts, Japan.