The last time Team USA battled Nigeria, it was not very close. Team USA defeated Nigeria 110-66 in an exhibition game back in 2016. In addition, Nigeria played the U.S. in its debut at the 2012 London Games and lost 156-73.
That was then; this is now.
On Saturday night, Nigeria hit 20 threes, including 11/19 in the second half, to shock Team USA 90-87 in an exhibition game at Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
Coming into this contest, the United States was 54-2 in exhibition games.
Nigeria head coach Mike Brown, who currently serves as associate head coach for the Golden State Warriors under USA assistant coach Steve Kerr, had his team ready on Saturday night. Nigeria has seven players that are on NBA rosters, including the Miami Heat’s Gabe Vincent(Nnamdi), who led the team with 21 points.
It was a bad loss for the U.S., but according to Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich, this loss could be what this team needed.
“In a way, I’m kind of glad it happened,” Popovich said. “It means nothing if we don’t learn from it. It could be the most important thing in this tournament for us. To learn lessons from this.”
Nigeria outhustled and outrebounded Team USA and won the battle on the glass(46-34), which Popovich discussed after the game.
“Rebounding was a problem,” Popovich said. “The stats – I almost wanted to give it back to the stat guys and say, ‘Can you do these over? There’s got to be some mistakes. Do your homework over again.’ Because I thought we got murdered on the boards. We got beat on the boards, but I thought we got murdered.”
Kevin Durant led Team USA with 17 points, and Jayson Tatum added 15 points.
Fortunately for Team USA, this was an exhibition game, so they have time to clean things up and get right for the Olympics.
The U.S. faces Australia, ranked third globally, in the second game of its pre-Olympic schedule on Monday night.
Listen below as Popovich and Tatum discuss loss to Nigeria: