Uganda’s Silverbacks picked a vital win in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Qualifiers on Saturday night, beating Cape Verde 77-74.
After falling to Mali on an opening day, Silverbacks made amends almost in all aspects of the game and went pound for pound with the Islanders before edging them in the nailbiter.
The Silverbacks shot better (from the field), defended better (running Cape Verde away from the 3-point line), and played with more cohesion than they did against Mali. The availability of Robinson Opong to play improved the team offensively while James Okello stepped up on both ends of the floor.
Offense was at premium early in the opening quarter but as the period waned, the game started to open up with Cape Verde edging it 14-12.
Cape Verde pulled away early in the second quarter stretching the lead to double digits (28-18), but Silverbacks wiped out the deficit through a team and trailed by just a point (32-31) with Robinson Opong beating the buzzer from 3-point range to close the half.
The all-square third quarter was an offensive exhibition and a seesaw as little separated the sides. Brandon Davies and Okello bounced off each other well in the frontcourt while Opong gave Silverbacks real presence on the wing.
Kenneti Mendes opened the fourth quarter with a pair of free throws for Cape Verde to take the lead to 3 points (61-58) which was also the biggest lead for either side in the final quarter, but Okello who played one of his best games in national team colours had the answer at the other end.
With the game tied at 63, Eric Rwahwire put Uganda up by 3 points but Cape Verde never fell further behind with returning point guard Shane Da Rosa pulling up to get his side to within a point.
It was back and forth from that point on until the final buzzer that sounded to the relief of the Ugandans who embraced each other once Da Rosa’s potential game-levelling corner 3-pointer drew the iron.
Brandon Davies poured in game-high 27 points and picked 10 rebounds to pace the Silverbacks, Opong contributed 17 points and Okello chipped in with 13 points and 8 rebounds before fouling out with over 3 minutes to play.
Jeffrey Nunes Xavier scored team-high 15 points for Cape Verde, Joel Almeida and Kenneti Mendes contributed 13 points apiece, Fidel Mendonça had 11 points while Ivan Almeida scored 10 points and picked 8 rebounds.
Uganda’s win means all teams in the Group have won once and lost as many. They are all on 3 points.
Both teams play the final games of the window on Sunday. Cape Verde face Mali while Uganda will take on Nigeria.