In what some are calling one of the biggest upsets in international basketball and the greatest win in the history of African basketball, Nigeria followed up their upset of Lithuania to eliminate Greece, 80-79, in the men's basketball Olympic qualifying quarterfinals Friday in Caracas, Venezuela.
A pair of Nigerians with ties to the New Orleans Hornets helped make it happen.
Ike Diogu, a former Hornets who never played a game for New Orleans due to injury, led Nigeria with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Fellow forward Al-Farouq Aminu, heading into his second season as a Hornet, battled foul trouble but added 13 points to help his nation rally for the victory.
Greece had played in the last two Olympic games while Nigeria has never qualified in men's basketball.
The Greeks had a 13-point lead in the second half before the length and tenacity of the Nigerians turned the tide.
Vasileios Spanoulis had 25 points and seven rebounds to pace Greece but missed a critical free throw before his game-winning three-point attempt was blocked from behind in the final seconds.
Greece shot 57.1 percent from the field compared to 42.6 percent for Nigeria but the vanquished Greeks left a lot of points at the free throw line, going 17-for-28 for the game. Spanoulis was just 5-for-11 from the stripe.
Meanwhile, Nigeria enjoyed a 36-27 advantage on the glass including 16 offensive boards and shot 18-for-20 from the stripe.
Next up for Nigeria is a potential two-for-one opportunity to reach London 2012. A win over Russia in the FIBA Olympic qualifying semifinals Saturday clinches a spot. If they lose to the Russians, Nigeria will play the loser of the other semifinal on Sunday for the last of three spots in London.
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