Bright Akhuetie and Nigeria racked up their first win in the 2023 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, escaping with a 72-70 victory over Mali, Saturday evening at Benguela in Angola.
Akhuetie, a product of University of the Philippines, played three minutes and 53 seconds in the contest. The former UAAP Most Valuable Player had a rebound and did not attempt a shot.
Crucial though was the moment went Akhuetie was subbed in by Julius Nwosu.
Akhuetie replaced Michel Oriakhi with 8:39 left in the game and the score knotted at 57-all.
By the time Akhuetie subbed out, the D’Tigers still kept close with Mali, falling behind by just a point 62-63.
Close though was the final stretch of the contest.
Ibrahima Lamine Sidibé knocked down a clutch triple to give Mali a 70-68 lead with 1:30 left.
Omotayo Jordan Ogundiran would answer right back with a rare four-point play with 53 seconds remaining, to give Nigeria the lead for good.
A clutch block by Christopher Ewaoche Obekpa on N’faly Kanouté sealed the victory for the D’Tigers.
Ogundiran had 19 points, three rebounds, three assists, and two steals for Nigeria while Ike Diogu also had 19 points.
Ben Uzoh added 11 points and seven assists while Obekpa got eight points, five rebounds, and three blocks.
Mali, who went down to 1-1, was led by Ibrahima Lamine Sidibé, who had 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting.
Siriman Kanoute added 13 points, built on six free throws.
Nigeria will play its final game in the window on Sunday against Uganda.