Olympic Basketball Qualifying Tournament, Day 1: Vasquez and Venezuela Eek Past Nigeria, Angola Upsets Former Cinderella Macedonia

Venezuela 71, Nigeria 69

This was one of the most interesting games of basketball I've ever watched. At first glance, it looks like Venezuela is a very well coached team, while Nigeria looks like they just met each other in the parking lot. The reason for this was Nigeria's total lack of guards. They usually wouldn't have a point guard in the traditional sense, they'd just hand it off to someone on the perimeter or the post and let him go to work. It resulted in a few comically missed shots and turnovers, but it somehow managed to produce points, because each player knew what shots they were supposed to take. Plus, because the team was inside focused, they were able to distract the Venezuela defense and get quite a few open threes in the second half.

Venezuela, on the other hand, ran set plays very well, but they relied on a few select players. Romero took a few bad shots from the perimeter and almost killed the team, and Cubillan was bricking open threes. Since they live and die with their shooting, their lead bounced between big and small, usually only being saved by a Vasquez three or a few key plays by Willy Graterol. Their free throw shooting was also a big problem, as some late missed free throws allowed Nigeria to get within one late in the game.

But, Venezuela did win the game, courtesy of some great play from Greivis Vasquez. He was pumping up the crowd, and hitting some insanely tough jumpers. You also have to credit some solid zone defense that kept Nigeria out of the paint at key times, and a few turnovers that were turned into easy points. Nigeria didn't have the same luxury on the fast break, often losing the ball or not passing it at all, trying to make a tough shot over a defender.

Angola 88, Macedonia 84

This was another strange game, but mostly because the result was totally unexpected. Angola jumped out to a big first quarter lead and kept it throughout the second and third quarters. At one point, it was 17. Macedonia refused to pressure them, so Eduardo Mingas and Carlos Morais were hitting really tough jumpers in Macedonia's face early on, but then went to driving the lane with Olimpio Cipriano and beating their man down low with Eduardo Gomes later on. Angola was dominating the boards, and Macedonia was barely on life support, only able to throw in a few threes here and there. Bo McCalebb was totally shut down, and had trouble getting past Angola's pressure heavy defense. Nobody was really shooting well.

Below: The Angola-Macedonia Fourth Quarter, The Two Blowouts, Tomorrow's Games!

But in the fourth quarter, the game did a complete 360. Angola's shot was totally gone and they couldn't pound it inside anymore, so they were reduced to reckless drives into the lane. Macedonia finally realized they could use their size to their advantage and started crashing the boards. Bo McCalebb came alive again, and Peja Samardziski was their only reliable shooter. Slowly but surely, Macedonia ate into Angola's lead. But they just ran out of time, and Angola sealed the game with yet another insane Olimpio Cipriano drive and some solid free throw shooting.

Russia 91, Korea 56
Greece 107, Jordan 63

Neither of these results are surprises. Without Rasheim Wright, Jordan probably wouldn't even be in this tournament, much less playing competitively. Korea is out of their league as well, as they have no non-domestic players and play a fast style, so they were made quick work of by Russia's big men.

Today's Schedule (All Games Streamed on FIBATV.com):

Korea vs. Dominican Republic, 10:30 CST

Macedonia vs. New Zealand, 1 PM CST

Jordan vs. Puerto Rico, 4:30 PM CST

Venezuela vs. Lithuania, 7 PM CST

In all honesty, today is probably the most boring day of basketball in the tournament. The first three matchups will be blowouts on all accounts, and the last matchup has Lithuania somewhat heavily favoured. Venezuela has the talent to put up a fight, but they generally excel against teams that they can shoot and force turnovers against, and Lithuania is a team that won't let them do either. Their exceptional passing will let them get some easy open shots, and I doubt Venezuela can shoot their way out of this one. Lithuania should run away with this one by the end of the third.

What did you think of today's games? Post a comment and let us know!

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