Yao Ming (2nd left), chairman of the Chinese Basketball Association, cheers Yi Jianlian (1st left) of China up during the group M match between China and Nigeria at the 2019 FIBA World Cup in Guangzhou, south China's Guangdong province, Sept 8, 2019. (PAN YULONG / XINHUA)
GUANGZHOU - Nigeria disappointed China 86-73 in classification round Group M of the FIBA World Cup, winning a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics.
With Iran beating the Philippines 95-75 in Group N, China was short on net points and lost the chance to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics directly from the World Cup.
"It is tough, it means a lot for me. I tried to play it as my last game of career," Yi Jianlian, who scored a game-high 27 points for China, said after the game.
It is tough, it means a lot for me. I tried to play it as my last game of career
"I feel proud of my players. China is a very good team and they got very good crowed. Every time China tried to narrow the gap, they fought back," Nigeria coach Alexander Nwora said.
Nigeria led 60-51 into the fourth quarter. Yi Jianlian stood out to cut the deficit to only three at 62-59 with seven minutes on the clock. But that was the closet difference between the two teams in the final seven minutes. Every time China tried to narrow the gap, the Nigerians fought back. With Okogie's four straight points, Nigeria killed the game, leading 80-71 with two minutes to go.
Okogie scored 16 points for Nigeria. Yi Jianlian had a game-high 27 points for China.
China needed a win to secure its ticket to the Tokyo Olympics. The hosts started the game in a stormy pace with very different starters compared to their former games. Fang Shuo hit five straight points to gift China an 5-4 lead early in the game. The 29-year-old scored 11 points in the first quarter to give China a 21-19 lead.
Nigeria strengthened its defense in the second quarter, trapping China in fouls and turnovers. China's center Zhou Qi committed three personal fouls early in the second quarter and was forced to sit on the bench in most of the quarter. A 6-0 spurt helped Super Eagles took a 35-31 lead into the halftime break.
Zhou Qi of China enters the court before the group M match between China and Nigeria at the 2019 FIBA World Cup in Guangzhou, south China's Guangdong province, Sept 8, 2019. (PAN YULONG / XINHUA)
The game turned into a duel between China's Yi and Nigeria's Udoh. Yi scored a straight five points to cut the deficit to only one for China. But Udoh stood out to score 11 points with jump-shots and layups. Nigeria led 60-51 into the fourth quarter.
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In the beginning of the fourth quarter, Zhou Qi was fouled out and the crowed turned silent as China was on the verge of collapse. It was Yi once again dribbled the ball to the paint and pulled himself high in the sky dunked the ball into the net. Yi added one free-throw to narrow the gap to only three for China. But this was the closest difference China managed to get in the fourth quarter.
"It is a pity we lost the game. Our players paid a lot of efforts in training and tried their best in the games," China coach Li Nan said.
Guo Ailun (center) of China warms up before the group M match between China and Nigeria at the 2019 FIBA World Cup in Guangzhou, south China's Guangdong province, Sept 8, 2019. (PAN YULONG / XINHUA)
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