HEIDELBERG, Germany — The European women’s U.S. all-stars weren’t much of a match for the Nigerian women’s Olympic basketball team in an 83-26 loss Friday night.
“It’s an eye-opener to see what it’s like on the next level,” said U.S. forward Tiffany Collins of Heidelberg, who scored three points. “All of them played college ball. They have two players who were with the WNBA, and they’ve been playing together for a long time.”
It showed early. The score was 23-9 after 10 minutes and 39-17 at halftime, with all the U.S. points coming on outside shots or free throws.
It got worse after that.
The Nigerians, champions of Africa and the only women’s team from the continent to qualify for next month’s Athens Games, decided to work on their full-court press after halftime, forcing turnovers and steals during a 32-2 third-quarter run.
“This isn’t the kind of game we need to get us ready for the Olympics,” Nigeria’s Mactabene Amachree said, “but we have what we have. After this we’re going to Turkey. They’ll give us some games.”
Amachree, who has played professionally in Turkey and with the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, led all scorers with 20 points. Mfon Udoka added 16 and Itoro Umoh and Aisha Mohammed had 9 points each for Nigeria.
Heidelberg’s Katina Miles scored six points to lead the U.S. team, which had practiced together only five times and had no inside presence.
“They’re very good athletes, very tall,” Collins said. “We had to shoot outside because it wouldn’t do any good to take it into the trees.”
Even though they were thoroughly outclassed, the Americans refused to mail it in.
“We kept battling,” said Joe Souza, who has coached the Heidelberg Lady Generals to three straight U.S. Forces Europe titles.
“They’re quick, long and athletic,” he said. “Women’s basketball is all about guard play, and they completely outplayed us at the guard position. If you can’t get the ball into the frontcourt, you can’t score.”
Despite the rout, Mannheim’s Cathy Holmes said she enjoyed the evening.
“It ain’t that often that you get to play an Olympic team,” she said. “This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Technically, it was a thrice-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The U.S. stars, augmented by German players, were scheduled to play the Nigerians on Saturday evening and again at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at Patton Barracks. Admission is free.