Former Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich famously said; “Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a Champion” upon winning the 1995 NBA title. After Tunisia’s first-quarter pitiful performance against Egypt in the AfroBasket 2021 Group B clash, I was not so sure.
But Tunisia, like a true champion, found their stroke and overturned a 19-point deficit to beat Egypt 87-81 in the North Africa derby on Thursday night at Kigali Arena.
The start to the game looked like there would be a repeat of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers when Egypt beat Tunisia in Luanda on the first day of December back in 2018, but point guard Omar Abada, shooting guard Michael Roll, forward Ben Romdhane, and center Salah Mejri were not ready for imminent humiliation.
The quartet combined for 68 points with Roll pouring in game-high 25 points, Mejri netting 17, Abada 14, and Romdhane 12 in the comeback win against their arch-rivals.
Egypt got off to a flyer taking the opening quarter 27-10 as Tunisia didn’t get going offensively and defensively in the opening 10 minutes.
Omar Farag’s 3-point play early in the second quarter took Egypt’s lead to 19 (33-14) but from that point, Tunisia went on a 34-12 run to take the lead on Abada’s pair of foul shots with 8:02 to play in the third quarter.
Tunisia led by as many as 9 points in a 28-point turnaround but the game stayed close with the African champions holding on for the win.
Ehab Saleh stepped off the bench to score team-high 17 points for Egypt, guards Amir Gendy and Ahmed Metwaly ‘Doola’ contributed 14 and 13 points respectively.