Kenya suffered an 18-point defeat to Côte d’Ivoire in their first game of the FIBA AfroBasket 2021.
The Morans competed and went toe-to-toe with the West Africans in the first half of the Group C match-up but ran out of steam as time waned to fall 88-70.
Côte d’Ivoire took a quick 5-0 lead early in the game but Taylor Ongwae had answers from deep in the first quarter that Kenya trailed by a couple of points (26-24).
The second quarter of the Wednesday night match-up at the Kigali Arena saw both sides march not just shot for shot but also aggressiveness on both ends of the floor. Morans edged the quarter 15-13 to go into the long break all tied up at 39.
If anything, the break took some wind out of Kenya’s sails as Côte d’Ivoire opened a double-digit lead three minutes into the third quarter. The Morans made five turnovers without scoring, a stretch that saw Côte d’Ivoire take their lead to 12 points (53-41) thanks to facilitator Soul Diabate coming alive in the second half.
The Morans dug into Côte d’Ivoire’s lead to go into the final quarter trailing by just 6 points (60-54).
However, three minutes into the fourth quarter, Côte d’Ivoire restored their double-digit lead through a team effort that was capped by Matt Costello’s jumper with 6:31 to play.
Big man Bush Wamukota and Ongwae trimmed the lead to 6 points with just under five minutes to play but thereafter, Kenya’s wheels fell off.
Costello scored 20 points and pulled down 8 rebounds to lead Côte d’Ivoire. Vafessa Fofana (13 points, 8 rebounds), Stephane Konate (12 points), and Guy Landry Edi (11 points) came in handy.
Tylor Ongwae dropped game-high 25 points to go with 6 rebounds and four assists in a losing effort as he got little help. Wamukota (9 points, 11 rebounds) and Albert Odero (8 points) were the other ‘significant’ contributors on the offensive end.
The sides return to action on Friday, August 27. Kenya takes on 2015 champions Nigeria at 4:00 pm (EAT) while Ivory Coast will lock horns with Mali at 7:00 pm (EAT).