ISTANBUL (2016 FIBA Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament) - In less than two weeks, Turkey will be heading to the 2016 FIBA Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament (WOQT), trying to qualify for the Olympics for the second time in a row. Over the weekend, it had a moral booster beating WOQT-bound Nigeria in a two-game warm-up series.
While Turkey prevailed at both games - winning 68-56 and 67-56 -, and looked impressive offensively, the Western Africans, who travelled to Istanbul without head coach Scott Nnaji and five other players due to administrative reasons, struggled on both ends of the floor.
At least 11 or 12 players have been playing together for some time now, and we are looking forward to the tournament [WOQT] in France. We are making progress as a team, and I am sure we’ll get there. Our goal is Rio. - Sanders
Lara Sanders, Turkey's leading scorer in last year’s EuroBasket Women, set the tone averaging 16 points in the two preparation games while Helen Ogunjimi fuelled Nigeria’s offense with successive three-pointers off the bench, but the series belonged to Turkey, who will resume its preparations facing Belarus in Minsk later this week.
What was the difference between the two teams?, FIBA.com asked Sanders after the game.
“We are experienced as a group,” the 1.91m center replied.
“At least 11 or 12 players have been playing together for some time now, and we are looking forward to the tournament [WOQT] in France. We are making progress as a team, and I am sure we’ll get there. Our goal is Rio.”
Turkey led by as many as 22 points in the first half of Game 2, but Nigeria rallied to cut the deficit to just five points later in the final quarter.
“We started the game really focused, but in the second half, but Nigeria took advantage at some point. ” Sanders said of Game 2.
“They [Nigeria] are a young team, but they played really tough in both games.”
Sanders can’t wait to take to the court in Nantes.
“It’s always to be back with girls. Every time they invite me to represent the national team, we always have fun together,” Sanders.
In order to advance to the Quarter-Finals, both Turkey and Nigeria will need at least one win in their Group Phase.
Turkey will go against Argentina and Cameroon in Group A while Nigeria will face Korea and Belarus in Group C.
A win or two in the Final Phase would see both teams through to the Rio Olympics.