The journey may have taken longer but Uganda is finally there! The Silverbacks soaked the pressure in the final five minutes behind closed doors of Salle Bouazzaoui to punch their ticket to the FIBA AfroBasket 2021 with a 77-65 win over Morocco.
Playing in the enemy territory, it was youngster Arthur Kaluma who stepped off the bench to score a game-high 20 points on his debut to power the Silverbacks over the line.
Uganda joins Senegal, Cameroon, and South Sudan in Group D of the final tournament that will take place from August 24 to September 5 in Kigali, Rwanda.
How the game unfolded
Silverbacks started slow missing their first five field goals but Morocco were equally blunt to start the game. The hosts led 5-2 early in the opening quarter with vet Abdelhakim Zouita who was returning to Morocco’s team causing all sorts of problems for Uganda.
However, Deng Geu (10 points) found space at the post to spark Uganda to a 20-10 first quarter as Silverbacks’ zone suffocated the Moroccans who struggled from deep.
It was a bit jittery to start when George Galanopoulos turned to his bench after mailman Ishmael Wainright got into early foul trouble but debutants Keiran Zziwa and Kaluma grew into the game before the latter got into foul trouble in the third quarter.
The second quarter was rough for the Silverbacks who succumbed to Morocco’s pressure turning over the ball multiple times and the hosts clawed back into the contest with back-to-back triples from Reda Ali Harras and Mustapha Khalfi. At the long break, it was just just a one-point (31-32) game with Uganda’s double-digit lead erased.
Tony Drileba opened the third quarter with a corner three-pointer that was quickly followed by a jumper from Robinson Opong and a lay-up from skipper Jimmy Enabu but Silverbacks cooled off before later heating up to open a double-digit lead capped by Eric Rwahirwe’s long three heading into the fourth quarter.
Morocco pressed the Silverbacks to start the fourth and the Ugandans coughed up the ball again on multiple occasions as the hosts slowly but surely chipped away, coming to within 3 points (63-66) with 3 minutes to play.
Zziwa put back Deng Geu’s miss with 2:44 to play to give Uganda a five-point lead and thereafter Kaluma took over.
Wainright notched a double of 11 points and 12 rebounds while Rwahire delivered an efficient 14 points.
Soufiane Kourdou, Zouita, and Haras all had 13 points in a losing effort for Morocco.