Bright Akhuetie and head coach Julius Nwosu did not have the national team debuts they expected.
Nigeria suffered a 79-71 collapse versus Cape Verde to open their 2023 FIBA World Cup African Qualifiers campaign, Friday evening (Manila time) held in Benguela, Angola.
Akhuetie, a former UAAP Most Valuable Player, played in the tail end of the second quarter, logging just a minute and 39 seconds. The University of the Philippines product had just one rebound and attempted no shots.
Still, the D’Tigers were up 55-51 heading into the final frame.
With the game knotted at 66-all with 3:21 left, Joel Almeida sparked an 8-0 Cape Verde rally that was also capped by two free throws from Ivan Almeida.
Amanze Egekeze tried to stop the bleeding but Jeffrey Xavier and Almeida were just too steady from the foul stripe to seal their first win in the qualifiers.
Joel Almeida and Xavier both had 14 points with the former also grabbing seven rebounds while the latter knocked down three treys.
Anderson Correia led the way for Cape Verde with 15 points, seven rebounds, four assists, and a steal while Ivan Almeida also had 13 points and seven rebounds.
Keith Omoerah and Ike Diogu paced Nigeria with 13 points apiece with Diogu adding eight rebounds. Ben Uzoh flirted with a triple-double with 11 points, 11 assists, and eight rebounds.
Up next for Nigeria is Mali tomorrow at 6:00PM.