After falling to Egypt in the opening game of the FIBA AfroBasket 2021 Qualifiers, Uganda badly needed a win to stay on track.
And on Saturday evening, the Silverbacks edged Morocco 94-90 behind a strong offensive performance from shooting guard Robinson Opong, especially in the third quarter.
Silverbacks and the Moroccans went into the game on the back of defeats and the first quarter of the match-up showed teams that were desperate for victory. No side could sustain a lead as it ended all tied-up at 15.
The second quarter was equally tight with several ties and even when Uganda opened a seven-point lead later in the period, Morocco fought their way back and trailed by just 2 points (40-38) heading into the long break.
John Deng Geu opened the third quarter scoring from downtown and three minutes in, the Opong show started and lifted Silverbacks to a double-digit lead. While Morocco had a short scoring burst and came to within 3 points (57-54) on Karim Gouraris trey with just over three minutes to play, Opong scored 10 points during that stretch to restore Uganda’s double-digit lead (74-64) going into the fourth quarter.
The Silverbacks extended their lead to 16 (82-66) in the opening two and a half minutes of the fourth quarter but Mohamed Choua and the Moroccans chipped away with an 11-0 run through a 3-minute stretch before Jimmy Enabu was sent to the line and connected on both throws. Deng followed up with a lay-up but the pressure was on.
While Opong and Enabu restored Silverbacks’ double-digit lead with just over two minutes to play, it only lasted one possession as Yassine Haila hit a 3-pointer that was followed by a couple of throws from Yassine Haila and a lay-up from Choua, pulling Morocco to within 3 points (91-88) wit under 30 seconds to the final buzzer.
Wainright hit a jumper with under 20 seconds to play to give Uganda some relief and Enabu iced the game with a free throw.
Opong poured in game-high 29 points with 16 coming in the third quarter to lead Silverbacks, Enabu added 16 points and dropped 7 dimes while Deng and Wainright chipped in with 14 points each.
Mohamed Choua top-scored for Morocco with 25 points and grabbed game-high 14 rebounds, Yassine Haila and Abdelkarim El Haoua added 20 points apiece while Karim Gourari had a near triple-double performance with 19 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists as the North African dropped their second successive game.