Silverbacks fall to gutsy South Sudan

Uganda's national basketball team, The Silverbacks. PHOTO/FILE/COURTESY

The Silverbacks went into their last group game at the Fiba Afrobasket last evening well aware of what had to be done.
Victory would set up a clash with neighbours Kenya in the playoff to the quarterfinals but an 88-86 loss will see the Silverbacks face Nigeria for a place in the last eight instead.
South Sudan beat Uganda at it’s own game of running and pressure defence when out of possession.
Uganda got out of the blocks early with Adam Seiko banking a three and Deng Geu following up with a jumper to give  the Silverbacks a quick 9-4 lead midway through the first quarter.
Arthur Kaluma got into foul trouble early in the game. He picked his second after just four minutes and head coach George Galanopolous called on Robinson Opong.
South Sudan shot well early and took their first lead 15-14. With Uganda’s flag going up early in the quarter, South Sudan went to the line and executed.
The tournament debutants started off the second quarter with a 4-0 run to force Uganda into a timeout from which Kieran Zziwa nailed a three but the Silverbacks continued to struggle with South Sudan’s intensity.
They led 50-44 after the first 20 minutes and had outplayed the Silverbacks by out-running them and converting better. They shot 13 of 24 from inside the paint and four of 15 from downtown.
They also made 16 attempts from the free throw line and converted 12 of those compared to Uganda’s five off seven attempts. Uganda shot nine of 16 to end the first half but failed to perfect their transition defence which gave South Sudan easy buckets.
Galanopoulos introduced James Okello into the rotation in the third quarter as he looked to get more size onto the floor. Opong released Ishmail Wainwright and the big man was fouled at the hoop, went to the line and made both for Uganda to lead 61-60  late in the third quarter.
Uganda limited South Sudan’s offence in the third frame and scored 21 to ensure matters were levelled at 65-all going into the final quarter.
Uganda created a six-point lead (63-57) early in the fourth but South Sudan kept crawling back. With four minutes left, the Silverbacks led 80-76 but South Sudan returned from a timeout and extinguished that.
Uganda led 86-85 with 14 seconds left on the clock but Kaluma fouled Deng Mabior, who went to the line and made both free throws for South Sudan to hold their nerves to win the game 88-86.
Uganda face Nigeria tomorrow to decide the quarterfinalist.

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