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Slick Tall Blacks open their Commonwealth Games account by blitzing Nigeria

Tall Blacks forward Mika Vukona takes it to the basket against Nigeria in their Commonwealth Games opener in Cairns.

Tom Abercrombie shook off his Australian National Basketball League (ANBL) shooting woes to lead a three-point shooting blitz from the Tall Blacks against Nigeria in their Commonwealth Games opener on Friday night.

Paul Henare’s New Zealanders were dialled in from beyond the arc, making 14-of-29 attempts for the game, as they thumped the outmatched Nigerians 110-65 in their Pool A opener in Cairns. That matched their gold medal rivals from Australia in making a serious statement with their first appearance in the eight-team tournament.

The result was never in doubt as the Kiwis edged out by 24-15 at the end of the opening quarter and 50-35 at the halftime mark. They made 10-of-18 first-half triples to shoot a red-hot 56 per cent from beyond the arc over the first two quarters, led by four (of five) long-range bombs from a dialled-in Abercrombie.

The Tall Blacks never let up their intensity thereafter as the minutes were shared throughout the 12-man squad, pouring in 31 third-quarter points to lead 81-43 at the final break, and cruising to an impressive 45-point opening victory.

Abercrombie rediscovered the shooting stroke that deserted him at the end of the ANBL to pace the Tall Blacks with 21 points in just 14 minutes. He made 4-of-6 attempts from deep, went 9-of-10 from the line and added four rebounds.

The rapidly improving Jordan Ngatai also put in a good shift with 16 points in 17 minutes, going 5-of-9 from the floor and 3-of-6 from three-point land.

Finn Delany (14 points on 6-of-7 shooting), Rob Loe (12 points, four rebounds, two assists) and Ethan Rusbatch (12 points on 5-of-7 shooting) also enjoyed their nights in the black singlet, with honourable mentions to Alex Pledger (eight points, 10 boards, five blocks), Mika Vukona (six points, five rebounds, four assists) and Shea Ili (six rebounds, six assists).

The Kiwis shot a blistering 54 per cent from the floor (37-of-68) and stellar 48 per cent from beyond the arc, while their 30 assists on 37 buckets was testament to their slick ball movement. They also thumped the west Africans 58-33 on the boards.

Azuoma Dike led the Nigerians with 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting, while former NBA player Ike Diogu added 12 points and seven rebounds before exiting with an injury early in the third quarter. It should also be mentioned that the gloriously monikered God’sgift Achiuwa slotted just a single basket, but did pick up a trio of rebounds.

Earlier, Andrej Lemanis’ Australian Boomers opened their Pool A account in impressive fashion, crushing Canada 95-55 behind five double-figure scorers, led by Daniel Kickert’s 14 points and Brad Newley’s 12. Both Angus Brandt and Nathan Sobey notched 10-point/11-rebound double-doubles.

The event hosts, and hot gold medal favourites, dominated from go to whoa, leading 25-13 after the first quarter, 47-29 at the half and 69-42 at the final break. They smashed the Canadians 54-30 on the boards and shot the ball at a very respectable 50 per cent from the floor and 43 per cent from beyond the arc.

New Zealand Tall Blacks 110 (Tom Abercrombie 21, Jordan Ngatai 16, Finn Delany 14, Rob Loe 12, Ethan Rusbatch 12) Nigeria 65 (Azuoma Dike 15, Ike Diogu 12, Yakubu Istifanus 10). 1Q: 24-15; HT: 50-35; 3Q 81-43

– Stuff

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