By Owolabi Abiola/First zeal media cast
Defending champions Nigeria narrowly survive scare from Cote d’Ivoire to register first win..
Co host Tunisia, Senegal start with wins so too is Angola, Rwanda, Morocco, Mali and Egypt..
Ike Diogu came up with a huge performance to inspire the defending champions Nigeria to a Group A 78-77 triumph over Cote d’Ivoire in Rades, on the outskirts of Tunis.
During his 33 minutes on the court, Diogu did a bit of everything for his team. Not only he led all scorers with a game-high 31 points, but he also finished with eight rebounds as Nigeria saw off a resilient Cote d’Ivoire side, who led 74-69 with three minutes remaining.
In the first Group A action, Mali and the Democratic Republic of Congo needed extra five minutes to find the winner of a breathtaking encounter.Mahamadou Kante’s team-best 22 points proved crucial for Mali who outscored Congo 87-82.
Led by Ziyed Chennoufi, Tunisia used a strong third quarter to see off a determined Cameroon side in Group C’s second game of the day.
Chennoufi paced the hosts with a game-high 16 points as they beat Cameroon 68-51.
Nevertheless, Tunisia’s win was anything but easy as they trailed 31-28 at the break.
Shooting guard Nizar Knioua came off the bench to change the course of the game, hitting three of his three-pointers and the former African champions Tunisia sealed a much-needed win.
In Friday’s first Group C action, Kami Kabange became the game-changer for Rwanda as they beat Guinea 75-55.
While Guinea – who returned to the competition for the first time in three decades – seemed prepared to cause an upset, the East Africans kept their best for the second half to register their first win in the tournament.
Meanwhile, in Dakar, Egypt opened their Group D proceedings with a compressive 75-47 win over Mozambique.
Three-time FIBA AfroBasket participant Haytham Khalifa led the North Africans with a game-high 14 points, while Helton Ubisse led Mozambique with nine points.
Although Mozambique demonstrated some resilience earlier in the game, trailing 33-22, Egypt came up even more determined in the remaining twenty minutes, outscoring Mozambique 42-25. A packed Marius Ndiaye Gym saw Senegal dispatch South Africa 83-44 to reaffirm their Group D intentions.
Mouhammad Faye, who’s making his first appearance for Senegal since 2015, came up with a performance for the ages, finishing with 15 points while Reece Prinsloo, the only South African to score in double figures, finished 11 points.
In Group B, John Wilkins hit all his four field goals to finish with a game-high 15 points as Morocco beat the Central African Republic 76-66.
Later in the day, Angola needed extra five minutes to beat Uganda 94-89.
The eleven-time African champions Angola trailed 44-29, but 14 three-pointers proved too much for Uganda.