Tokyo Olympics: D’Tigress, after loss to US, meet France team keen to bounce back from defeat
Nigeria’s D’Tigress will return to the Saitama Super Arena on Friday to take on France in a game both sides will be hoping to finish on a victorious note and securing their first win of the Tokyo Olympic Games after losing their respective tournament openers on Tuesday.
France lost 74-70 to Japan on Tuesday in a game the Japanese, with an average height of 5’9” churned out a gritty defensive display accompanied by some ruthless 3-point shooting.
It was a performance the French would want to forget in a hurry, but if D’Tigress begin Friday’s match the same way they started and ended Tuesday’s 81-72 loss to the United States, then it might just be déjà vu for the Europeans.
Nigeria raced to a 20-17 first-quarter lead against the defending Olympic Games champions, but they surrendered that lead and were behind 70-50 at the end of the third quarter.
D’Tigress, coached by the US-born Otis Hughley, however, dominated the Americans in the final quarter, outscoring the greatest basketball-playing nation in the world 22-11. And if they re-enact that opening and final quarters’ performance on Friday in Saitama, then Valerie Garnier’s French team would be in a lot of trouble.
“They like to make the game chaotic, they like to make you do things that you’re not used to doing, play a way you don’t want to play. It’s never going to be pretty against them,” said veteran US captain Sue Bird after Tuesday’s game against the African champions.
D’Tigress’ have a reputation of forcing opponents to commit turnovers, and translating those turnovers into easy offence. It was a strategy the Japanese deployed on Tuesday.
France struggled to get into their offence as the smaller Japanese looked to trap their ball handlers with double and triple teams, while also capitalising on defensive lapses in Garnier’s team to knock down shots from beyond the arc. In all, the Japanese made 11 three-pointers against the French, including five in the fourth quarter.
With a team not dependent on a single player for scoring – Nigeria had four scorers in double digits against the United States – D’Tigress are capable of handing the French a second defeat in a row.
If that happens, it would be the first victory at the Olympics for D’Tigress since the 2004 Athens Games when a Nigerian side led by legendary forward Mfon Udoka defeated South Korea 68-64.
But if D’Tigress go about their business as lethargically as they did in the second and third quarters of that loss to the United States, then it just might be the Nigerians who would be having that feeling of déjà vu at the end of Friday’s Group B game in Saitama.