By Eurohoops Team/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Russia faced a challenge in its 2019 FIBA World Cup opener, but regained the lead after a sloppy start to the fourth quarter for the 82-77 victory at Wuhan. The upset came as close as it gets in the Group B opener.
Mikhail Kulagin poured 12 points in the first half, added the two winning free throws and finished with a team-high 16 points. “The main thing is the win. It was very important for us today. We should not relax” he said after the contest.
Sergey Bazarevich’s national team jumped to an 11-point lead in the first quarter. Kulagin provided the answers for the first-half lead. In the end, Andrey Vorontsevich with 14 points, Andrey Zubkov with 12 and Vitaly Fridzon with the 11 were the other four double-digit helpers.
Nigeria certainly had its moments and ultimately turned the game around. After knotting the contest at 58 in the end of the third quarter, the African national team got a 68-60 lead midway through the fourth, but could not hold on.
“It was a pretty emotional win” mentioned Bazarevich. “For the most part of the game we were in control. Then we lost the execution in offense. We have to give credit to Nigeria’s defense, which was tough sometimes I believe too tough.”
Josh Okogie posted a game-high 18 points, but the 20-year-old forward lost the ball with the game tied at 75-75 in the last minute. His turnover allowed the Russians to get back in the lead.
“Classic turnovers myself included” Okogie noted in the post-game press conference. “We wanted to force them to contested twos. They are a very good three-point shooting team and made two straight threes. We lost our focus after the eight-point lead.”
Ike Iroegbu followed with 12 points and Nnamdi Vincent added 11 for Alexander Nwora’s side. Chimezie Metu and Jordan Nwora had 10 points apiece.
Following the match, head coach Nwora admitted: “We fell short. We made a lot of crucial mistakes to protect our lead when we got it. We are very young team with a couple of veterans, but we are a very young team. We have a lot to learn from this game.”
Up next for the Russians is South Korea on Monday. “We will be ready for this game 100%” Kulagin pointed out and his head coach added: “We respect every opponent. Korea moves the ball, plays transition with a lot of fast breaks.”
The Nigerians will look to rebound facing Argentina in Gameday 2 action.
Photo Credit: FIBA.BASKETBALL