Uganda lost 88-86 against a buzzing and extremely agile South Sudan side in a thrilling Afrobasket encounter played on Sunday August 29th at the Kigali Arena.
In a nail-biting and absolutely nervy finish, the Silverbacks trailed by one point after Deng Acuoth converted both his free-throws with 14 seconds on the clock.
This was followed with a return from a timeout where Uganda’s triple-double hero Ishmail Wainright missed a two-point winning shot and got fouled out against Mathiang Mauot Muo.
Mathiang ably took his opportunity to score from the line and make it (88-86), intentionally fluffing the second as the time expired on the clock.
The long awaited final buzzer was greeted with wild celebrations and unquantifiable rupture from the South Sudanese for they had not only won a game of basketball but also beaten a local rival.
From the Sudanese perspective, the manner of the win made it even sweeter and thus subjected Ugandans to merely sourgrapes with an elimination from the coveted tournament seemingly imminent.
Despite Wainright’s triple double of 22 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists, his efforts singlehandedly were never going to be enough to carry the Silverbacks over the line.
The loss directly implies that Uganda, who lost to Senegal but beat Cameroon, finish third in Group D and lockhorns with continental giants Nigeria who finished second in Group C for a place in the quarterfinal stage.
South Sudan (who finished second) on the other hand will face Kenya on Tuesday August 31st in a bid to book a place at the quarterfinals.
Uganda Edged In Thriller
Following a slow start to the game, the Silverbacks were down by six points at halftime with an equivalent of 15-of-32 attempted shoots. This implying that their accuracy was heavily lacking.
The Silverbacks however kept South Sudan at arms length courtesy of a double strike by Adam Seiko along the line to grant the team a 61-60 lead with 1:57 seconds on the clock in the third quarter.
It is also imperative to remember that Seiko, had just recovered from a right calf injury midway through the game to splash the points and give an advantage to the Silverbacks in the quarter.
At this juncture, the game was simply a close contest as both sides finalized the quarter tied at 65-65 going into the last ten minutes.
While in the fourth, Robinson Opong drilled in a corner three to hand Uganda a 68-65 advantage but the South Sudanese kept coming and pegged Uganda back as the sides continued to trade blows.
Once South Sudan went up, they never relinquished their lead, and held on for their first ever game participation win at the Afrobasket.
Game participation in the sense that the South Sudanese were earlier awarded a 20-00 win following a forfeiture courtey of Cameroon registering a total of five positive Covid19 cases.
Dhieu Abwok Deing led for South Sudan with 22 points, Mathiang Mauot Muo contributed 17 while Deng Acuoth and Kuany Ngor added 13 points each.
Besides Wainright’s monster performance, the brothers Arthur Kaluma and Adam Seiko scored 14 points each, Robinson Opong had four threes in his 17 points while John Deng Geu scored 11 points on the evening.
The Silverbacks will surely rue their poor start in this particular game but their staggering 16 turnovers against South Sudan’s nine might just have been their biggest undoing.
The South Sudanese out rebounded Uganda 44-43 and coach George Galanopoulos will feel his boys left everything on the court in a game where the lead exchanged hands a maximum of seven times.
Nigeria poses a totally different challenge as compared to what the Silverbacks have perhaps been accustomed to. They (Nigerians) are good on both areas of the floor and ousting them might just be a job of considerable difficulty.