ALEXANDRIA, FEBRUARY 24th 2023 (FIBA) – South Sudan on Friday became the first team in African basketball history to qualify for the FIBA Basketball World Cup in their first attempt.
Nuni Omot came up with a man-of-the-match performance to help South Sudan beat Senegal 83-75 and become the second African team – after Cote d’Ivoire – to qualify for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup to be held in Indonesia, Japan and Philippines.
It was a breathtaking encounter that saw two desperate teams looking to rewrite history. While Senegal hoped to boost their chances to return to the World Cup for the third straight time, South Sudan stepped on the floor looking to make history, and history was made.
This looked more like a battle between Nuni Omot and Senegal’s Brancou Badio.
But Omot, who opened the scoreline with a floater, turned out the reason South Sudan denied a defiant Senegalese team.
Omot was 7-for-14 from the floor to finish with a team-high of 26 points, he added 8 rebounds and dished out 4 assists.
Koch Bar came off the bench for Deng Acuoth who picked his second foul three minutes into the game, to add valuable 11 points, 8 rebounds and 2 assists for the history making South Sudan.
Badio did everything he possibly could to keep Senegal at bay. From creating shooting opportunities, which resulted in 6 assists, to attacking the rim with a thunderous dunk on Sunday Dech, Badio finished with a game-high 29 points, but despite his effort, the night belonged to South Sudan.
TURNING POINT: South Sudan led by 14 early in the first half, but Senegal regained the lead in the third, leading by as many as 11 points. However, Bul Kuol buried two straight three-pointers that gave South Sudan a 77-67 lead with 2:35 minutes left, and, despite Senegal’s response, the damage was done.
GAME HERO: Omot, who plays for Senegal head coach DeSagana Diop at Westchester Knicks in the G League, was the face of South Sudan’s desperation. He hit a buzzer-beater three-pointer to help his team close the gap to 63-59 at the end of the third quarter, before adding another eight points in the final ten minutes.
STATS DON’T LIE: The eleven lead changes reflect the intensity of a game that could have gone either way. But the biggest difference of the game was South Sudan’s bench who outscored Senegal’s 33-14.
BOTTOM LINE: Senegal entered the game with a 2-0 head-to-head advantage over South Sudan dating back to the 2021 AfroBasket, but South Sudan’s high morale to write a new chapter in African basketball history proved too much for Senegal, who looked in control of the game in the third, but Luol Deng and his men weren’t prepared to delay their qualification for the World Cup for a few more days, and they did what they came to Alexandria for.