Nigeria’s D’Tigress were brilliant on Tuesday but inexperience did them in for Team USA to survive their early onslaught and go on to secure a nervous 81-72 win.
In this Women Basketball’s Preliminary Round Group B opening game at the Tokyo Olympic Games played at the Saitama Super Arena, Nigeria took the early initiative.
They stunned the six-time and reigning Olympic champions who boast a roster full of WNBA talent, including no fewer than 15 previous gold medallists.
In just their second Olympic appearance, the African champions took a 20-17 first-quarter lead thanks to the sharp shooting of Ify Ibekwe.
U.S eventually found their rhythm through Sue Bird and a steady stream of points from Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner and Olympic debutant A’ja Wilson.
They won the second quarter 27-12 and the third quarter 26-18.
But D’Tigress refused to lie down, and in a thrilling final quarter they roared back to life with 22 points as against 11.
But they still fell nine points short of a relieved USA at the full-time buzzer.
History has it that beating the U.S in women’s Olympic basketball is a tall order, and this is in every sense of the word.
They have won every gold medal since Atlanta 1996, and are hoping to make it seven in a row at Tokyo 2020.
U.S’s next match is against hosts Japan, while Nigeria will look to bounce back against France, with both matches slated to take place on Friday.