In the opening match of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament held in Antwerp, Belgium, on February 8, Nigeria secured a 72-65 victory, led by Amy Okonkwo's impressive double-double performance, scoring 21 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
Coach Rena Wakama emphasized the team's chosen focus, "dauntless," and praised their resilient play in the postgame press conference, highlighting their ability to come together and fight back during challenging moments.
Despite Senegal taking the lead in the second quarter, Nigeria staged a comeback in the fourth quarter, with Lauren Ebo making crucial shots. Yacine Diop of Senegal contributed significantly with 21 points in the first half but faced difficulties later in the game.
The match was a rematch of the 2023 FIBA Afrobasket Finals, where Nigeria emerged victorious with an 84-74 win, once again featuring a standout performance from Amy Okonkwo. Senegal's new head coach, Alberto Carlos Antuna Leal, expressed satisfaction with his team's performance, acknowledging their competitive spirit against a strong opponent like Nigeria.
This game holds significance in the FIBA Olympic qualifying tournament, determining the Olympic quotas for the Paris 2024 Olympics. With the U.S. already securing a quota by winning the 2022 FIBA World Cup, two spots remain available. Nigeria is set to face the U.S. on February 9, while Senegal will compete against Belgium, further shaping the narrative of this critical tournament.