Nigeria-Lithuania Preview

Although Nigeria is one of the bigger surprises to qualify for

the Olympics, it’s unlikely to sneak up on Lithuania.

Fresh off a win in its Olympic debut, Nigeria looks to beat

Lithuania for the second time in four weeks when they meet Tuesday

in Group A Play.

Nigeria began its journey to the Olympics by beating Lithuania

86-80 on July 4 in the qualifying tournament in Venezuela. The

African nation needed to win after losing its first game to the

host country, and followed up that victory by stunning Greece 80-79

two days later. Nigeria lost to Russia by eight points in the

semifinals, but was able to earn the final spot in the London Games

with an 88-73 victory over the Dominican Republic on July 8.

Against Lithuania, Derrick Obasohan, who completed his

collegiate career at Texas-Arlington in 2004, led Nigeria with 20

points, while New Orleans Hornets forward Al-Farouq Aminu added 16

points and nine rebounds. Lithuania trimmed an eight-point,

fourth-quarter deficit down to one, but was unable to get any

closer.

Obasohan felt Nigeria got a bit lucky because Lithuania tired

down the stretch after playing a game the night before, while his

team was off. Both teams will have had a day off heading into

Tuesday’s rematch.

Nigeria defeated Tunisia 60-56 on Sunday in a matchup between

two countries making their Olympic debuts in men’s basketball.

Nigeria held Tunisia to 15 first-half points and looked like it

would cruise to an easy win, but Tunisia pulled within two with

5:14 left in the fourth quarter.

Alade Aminu, who played at Georgia Tech, then made a big

3-pointer and his brother, Al-Farouq, made of one of two free

throws with 11 seconds remaining to seal the victory.

Squandering almost all of a 19-point lead wasn’t ideal, but the

team likes where it’s heading.

“I think it sets us up nice,” said Ade Dagunduro, who scored

four of his six points in the final 2:29. “We’re settled in, now

that we’ve got that win behind us. Now we need to move forward. I

like our chances but we’ve got to stay focused. And if we get up,

we need to maintain the lead. We can’t lose our composure.”

Lithuania, which bounced back from its defeat to Nigeria earlier

this month to close out the qualifying tournament with wins over

Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic to secure a sixth straight

Olympic berth, didn’t have as many positives to build on from its

Olympic opener.

In a 102-79 loss to Argentina on Sunday, Lithuania appeared to

be outhustled. It allowed Argentina to shoot 11 of 27 from 3-point

range and finish with 12 steals, to just two of its own.

Linas Kleiza, who plays with the Toronto Raptors, finished with

20 points for Lithuania, while 6-foot-11 center Jonas Valanciunas,

who will be a rookie for Toronto this season after the Raptors

selected him fifth overall in the 2011, had 14 points but only

three rebounds.