2019 FIBA World Cup: Aminu vs. Russia

by Josh Cohen

Al-Farouq Aminu came on strong down the stretch, scoring four of his 10 points in the final two minutes, however Nigeria was unable to hold off Russia on Saturday in its opening game of the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China.

The 6-foot-9 Aminu, who signed with the Orlando Magic as a free agent earlier this summer, also had a big steal with just over a minute left while the game was tied. The Nigerians, though, were unable to capitalize as the Russians closed the game on a 7-2 run, winning 82-77 in Group B action.

Trailing for much of the first three quarters, the Nigerians stormed back and took an eight-point advantage midway through the final frame. A layup by Ike Iroegbu, which was assisted by Aminu, put Nigeria, the 33rd ranked team in the world according to FIBA, up 68-60. The Russians then responded and reclaimed the lead with just over two minutes left.

Aminu, who will give Orlando more defensive versatility this upcoming season, was one of six Nigerians to score in double figures. The Timberwolves’ Josh Okogie led all scorers with 18 points, while Iroegbu tallied 12 and Nnamdi Vincent had 11. The Spurs’ Chimezie Metu, who like Okogie is getting ready to begin his second NBA season, finished with 10 points.

Although he attempted just four shots, the Magic newcomer, who turns 29 in a few weeks, made six of his eight free throw attempts and also contributed with five rebounds and two steals.

Mikhail Kulagin recorded 16 points for the Russians, who drilled 11 of their 27 3-point attempts. Former Cavaliers and Nets swingman Sergey Karasev scored eight points. Russia's excellent ball movement led to 20 team assists.

Up next for the Nigerians is Argentina, the heavy favorites to win Group B. Tip-off for that matchup will take place on Monday at 4:30 a.m. ET.

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