The 2013 FIBA Africa Championship tournament concluded first-round play on Tuesday, setting the stage for the semifinals to begin Wednesday. The top three teams in the tournament will receive an automatic bid to next year's FIBA World Cup, thereby moving a step closer to a berth in the 2016 Olympics.
The big news on Tuesday, however, is that one of last year's Olympic competitors won't get the same treatment in its next iteration. Tunisia brought a similar roster to this year's FIBA Africa games, but the former Cinderella squad couldn't cut it as favorites, getting upset by Egypt after finishing pool-play with an undefeated record.
The rest of the day's action pretty much went as expected, however, meaning seven of the eight favorites advanced to the second round of the tournament while showing the top-to-bottom talent disparity between the 16 teams that qualified in the tournament.
Egypt 77, Tunisia 67 -- Tunisia was supposed to win this game, but it never really looked like it wanted it enough ... and ended up getting upset for its lackadaisical attitude, making it all but impossible for the team to qualify for another Olympic berth.
Ibrahim El-Gammal scored a total of 16 points in Egypt's first three games of the tournament, but came up big with 19 to help lead the upset over Tunisia -- though his flagrant foul late in the game left the door open for Tunisia a bit longer than planned. The 34-year-old Wael Khedr added 19 points as well, while Haytham Khalifa rounded out the double-digit scorers with 10 points before fouling out.
Makram Ben Romdhane stayed consistent with his fourth consecutive game of between 18 and 23 points, but a tournament-high eight turnovers undermined his 22-point performance. Former Utah Jazz Summer Leaguer Salah Mejri was solid with 16 points and nine rebounds, but Tunisia wasn't able to find the 7'1 center in crunch time.
Cape Verde 67, Republic of Congo 60 -- Tuesday afternoon's game between Cape Verde and Congo wasn't pretty, as neither team shot better than 37 percent from the field, but it was Cape Verde winning the battle of attrition while eliminating the Congolese squad. It wasn't easy, however, as the favorites outscored Congo 29-10 in the fourth quarter to secure the victory.
Cape Verde was led by current Maine Black Bears wing Dimitry Akanda-Coronel. The 21-year-old scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds to help his team to victory. The 35-year-old veteran guard Mario Ildo Correia was the only other player for Cape Verde to score in double figures, taking 14 shots to score 14 points.
Congo was led by 14 points apiece from Kris Morlende and Giovan Oniangue, a disappointing performance for the latter considering he'd averaged 25 points in Congo's previous two games. Jean-Felix Moupegnou added 13 points to round out the double-figure scorers while veteran big Romaric Kondzy put together a solid game with eight points and 10 rebounds.
Senegal 67, Rwanda 57 -- Senegal was expected to do well in the tournament since it is one of the few teams that features players with NBA experience. Those NBA players have yet to be really featured, but the favorites were still able to eliminate Rwanda, as the latter made just 22 of their 79 attempts from the field.
Former NBA players Saer Sene and Hamady Ndiaye combined for just 14 points and 12 rebounds in 40 minutes of total playing time, though Ndiaye did record five blocks to prove his worth. Abdou Badji, the 6'10 power forward, was the breakout performer of Tuesday's game. He scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds after being held scoreless in the team's previous two games.
Rwanda was led by Kami Kabangu with 14 points and 12 rebounds, though he missed 12 of his 18 shot attempts and committed four of Rwanda's 15 turnovers. Texas-born Kenneth Gasana was the only other Rwanda player in double figures, but his 12 points weren't enough after he'd scored 22 points in each of his team's previous three games.
Nigeria 112, Central Africa Republic 75 -- Nigeria actually trailed after the first quarter of Tuesday's first-round playoff game, but then outscored Central Africa Republic, 34-12, in the second quarter en route to a commanding victory for the tournament's most talented squad.
Former VMI Cadets standout Stan Okoye led the way with 29 points in 31 minutes, outshining his talented teammates with NBA experience. Current New Orleans Pelicans forward Al-Farouq Aminu was quiet with just nine points and eight rebounds while NBA vets Ike Diogu (22), Ben Uzoh (13) and Gani Lawal (11) all scored in double figures. Jamal Olasewere, the reigning Northeast Conference Player of the Year after a solid career at Long Island University, added 14 points in 14 minutes to round out the double-digit scorers.
All 16 teams will be in action again Wednesday. The winners will take part in the quarterfinals while the losers begin play to determine places 9-16 for posterity's sake.