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Basketball

USA women's basketball team beats Nigeria to kick off their campaign

Team USA off to the perfect start with a hard fought victory over Nigeria.

Basketball Team USA Women Sue Bird
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Team USA start their campaign with a win over Nigeria (Source : USAB twitter)

By

Ananth Narasimman

Updated: 27 July 2021 11:31 AM GMT

The USA women's team began their quest for gold by winning a closely contested battle with a determined Nigeria. The first quarter began in an exciting fashion, with both teams trading blows before locking things down. Las Vegas Aces star A'Ja Wilson dominated the paint and took advantage of the mismatches presented to her. The combination of her and Phoenix Mercury forward Brittney Griner helped them play old school bully ball against a physical Nigerian team, making it an exciting match up.

Nigeria ran riot in the first half, causing multiple turnovers with their stifling defense and making them pay by scoring off those mistakes made by the Americans. Ezinne Kalu and Ify Ibekwe were especially lethal on the counter for the D'Tigers, with each having big games.

Team USA managed to find their groove late in the first half, led by the legendary Sue Bird, who ran the offense and found open teammates for easy buckets while also motivating them to stay sharp in defense. Bird's and Diana Taurasi's leadership mattered the most as they were able to keep their young teammates composed and not get carried away. Bird's 13 assists and 10 points were vital in helping stabilize the team and keep them in a great position to see the game through despite Nigeria giving it their all.

Team USA cruised through the second half by building on a 20 point lead till Nigeria reeled things back and cut the lead down to single digits in the fourth quarter with physical defense and immense willpower. The Nigerians were here to play and took it to the Olympic favourites, making it more difficult to score as the game went. Unfortunately, their lack of attacking options and questions surrounding Nneka Ogwumike's appeal came back to haunt them. Without the Sparks star and her sister Chiney, Nigeria found it tough to create offense from a dead ball scenario and relied more on their defensive prowess to create opportunities. This wore them out and made it easier for the highly skilled American stars such as Wilson, Griner and Gray to play bully ball and dominate.

Team USA is loaded with talent from top to bottom and has the leadership to see them through, but they will face tougher competition as teams like Nigeria will only get better as the tournament goes. If the first game was any indication we are all set for a nail-biting finish to the tournament, making it one of the most exciting ones in a long time.

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