The 2013 FIBA Africa Championship tournament began on Tuesday, but Wednesday's action featured the majority of the favorites in the field. This week's games are only for seeding purposes since all 16 teams will make the knockout tournament when that starts next Monday, but basketball is basketball -- especially when said basketball involves the Aminu brothers!
Rwanda 80, Burkina Faso 61 - Kami Kabangu has been a fixture on the Rwandan National Team since 2009, but the 6'8 forward has never looked as impressive as he did on Wednesday. He 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, five of which came on the offensive end, as the world's 67th-ranked team downed their FIBA Africa debutant opponents.
Kabangu wasn't the only impressive player for Rwanda, as Kenneth Gasana and Cameroun Bradley chipped in a combined 41 points and 10 rebounds as well. Gasana was born in Texas and Bradley was born in Michigan, but both have made much more noise in Africa than they ever did stateside.
All eight players that suited up for Burkina Faso scored, led by Moussa Ouattara and Jean Paul Bayala with 10 points apiece, but the team's 19 combined turnovers and a cold third quarter kept them from victory in their first game in FIBA Africa competition.
Cameroon 74, Congo 43 - Cameroon held Congo to single-digit points in three quarters en route to their 31-point victory on Wednesday. It certainly wasn't a surprise, though, considering the talent Cameroon took to Abidjan in hopes of qualifying for next year's FIBA World Cup.
Former UCLA standout Alfred Aboya scored 16 points, going 7-of-8 from the field to lead his talented squad over the overmatched players from Congo. Gaston Essengue was the only other Cameroonian to score in double figures with 14. New Sacramento Kings stopper Luc Richard Mbah a Moute had just five points and four fouls in 26 minutes while Alexis Wangmene -- a project of San Antonio Spurs general manager R.C. Buford -- was held to three points after getting the start.
Bertrand Boukinda was the only Congolese player in double figures with 12 points. Congo shot just 2-of-23 from beyond the arc and 7-of-19 from the charity stripe while being outrebounded by 14 and committing 20 turnovers -- not a good day for Congo.
Nigeria 74, Mali 59 - Nigeria features four players with NBA experience and a few others that have earned Summer League invites, making them one of the favorites to advance through next week's knockout round. They didn't look dominant against a rather weak Mali team through three quarters on Wednesday, but a 27-13 discrepancy in the final stanza sealed the deal.
Ike Diogu, a former lottery pick and veteran of six different NBA teams, led Nigeria with 19 points and seven rebounds while hitting two of his four three-point attempts (a peculiar stat considering he's 1-for-2 from beyond the arc in 225 NBA games). New Orleans Pelicans player Al-Farouq Aminu added 15 points and 10 rebounds, while his brother Alade Aminu added 12 and six to round out Nigeria's double-digit scorers. Ben Uzoh filled up the box score with eight points, six rebounds, five assists, five turnovers, two blocks and a steal while Gani Lawal had four points and four rebounds as Nigeria's least-effective NBA-experienced player.
Mali was led by Namory Boundy's 21 points, but the former prospect was the only player on his team to score more than nine points in the loss. It didn't help that Mali shot just nine free-throws compared to Nigeria's 23, but the 15 rebound discrepancy was a large factor as well.
Tunisia 56, Morocco 54 - Makram Ben Romdhane scored 21 points -- including the game-winner with just a second left on the clock -- and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead Tunisia to a victory over Morocco on Wednesday. The 24-year-old averaged 15 points and nine rebounds for Tunisia in the 2012 Olympics, establishing himself as an impressive player.
Point guard Nizar Knioua was the only other Tunisian to score in double figures, hitting three of his five attempts from beyond the arc and adding six free throws for 15 points. Salah Mejri looked solid for the Utah Jazz in Summer League last year, but the 7'1 center scored just two points and grabbed seven rebounds after getting the start on Wednesday.
Morocco was led by 10 points apiece from Reda Rhalimi and Mustapha Khalfi, but they also combined for nine of their team's 21 turnovers.
All of Wednesday's games featured Groups B and D in action. Thursday's schedule goes back to round-robin play between Groups A and C, featuring Senegal playing the Ivory Coast.