Even before leaving for a two-week camp in Egypt on June 17, the Silverbacks knew what was expected of them to keep hopes of making the 2023 Fiba World Cup.
They had to get a win or two in the second round of qualifiers to progress to the next and last phase.
Having defeated Cape Verde in the first round in Angola, the Silverbacks went into the second round seated third on the log and ahead of the islanders due to a superior head-to-head record.
However, when Cape Verde started the tournament with a 79-70 win over Nigeria on Friday, the permutations flipped Uganda.
After Cape Verde’s win over Nigeria, Uganda were left rooted at the bottom of Group A.
Losing to Mali for the fourth straight time was not an option. But, as luck would have it, George Galanopoulos and his charges didn’t have to break a sweat for their first victory in Kigali, Rwanda.
Mali players chose to use the big stage to make a statement to the federation and government back home.
They forfeited their game due to unpaid allowances and would go on miss the other two games as well.
The result got Uganda back in business and despite falling 78-87 to Cape Verde on Saturday, the target of making the next round had been met.
Mali flew to Kigali with a 2-1 record and in a good position to make the final phase of the qualifiers.
Respect for Cape Verde
The affair between Uganda and Cape Verde is turning into a rivalry of sorts, probably because the two sides have met often in the last two years.
The islanders avenged their 74-77 first round loss with huge performances by Walter Tavares and Williams Tavares.
The duo combined for 43 points with Williams getting 22 and Walter 21 as Cape Verde took the game 87-78.
Even when 7’3 Centre Walter was winning every match up, Uganda stayed close and the first half ended with Cape Verde leading by a single point (44-43).
It was in the third and fourth frame that Cape Verde ran away with it, creating a 21-point difference before Walter fouled out midway through the last ten minutes.
A late charge by Uganda was simply not enough despite cutting the lead to a mere two points to excite the sizable crowd that made the trip across the border.
“Credit to Cape Verde. It’s a battle every time we play them,” Galanopoulos said after the game.
Uganda’s problems started with both Arthur Kaluma (18) and Ishmail Wainwright (21) getting into early foul trouble.
The two fouled out with Uganda attempting to come back in the game and Deng Geu’s offense late on was simply not enough.
Tonny Drileba had earlier been stretched off with an ankle injury while James Okello got no minutes due to injury.
Kieran Zziwa and Ivan Muhwezi didn’t step off the bench as Galanopoulos ran a nine-man rotation.
Wainwright led Uganda with 21 points while Kaluma got 18. Deng and Robinson Opong added 12 and 11 respectively.
Cape Verde out rebounded Uganda 44-34 to limit the Silverbacks quick transition offense on the day.
Fiba W. Cup Qualifiers
FRIDAY RESULTS - Group A
Cape Verde 79-70 Nigeria
Uganda vs.(w/o) Mali
Nigeria vs.(w/o) Mali
Cape Verde 87-78 Uganda
Nigeria 91-72 Uganda