Greece crashed out of the Olympic qualification tournament in Venezuela after shockingly losing to underdog Nigeria on Friday with an 80-79 score.
This shameful result for the national team came at the worst possible point in the tournament as losing in the quarterfinal entailed an immediate elimination.
The Greeks were inexplicably poor in their free throws (scoring just 17 out of 28 from the line), allowing the physically superior Nigerian team to stay in the game and snatch the ticket to the semifinals that lead to the London Games.
Greece was also particularly inefficient in rebounds, as the Nigerians collected 10 more than the Greeks (38 against 28).
The Africans — who had beaten Lithuania 86-80 two days earlier but the picture of that game was that the Baltic side had allowed Nigeria to win — did not give up their effort to spring a major upset and were rewarded for that in the end.
It was only in the second period that Greece played to its potential, turning a 21-21 score after the first period to a 12-point advantage at half-time (42-30).
Complacency by the Greeks and an indomitable spirit by the Nigerians saw the latter eat into their handicap in the second half and snatch victory thanks to two free throws three and a half seconds before the end.
Claims for a foul on Vassilis Spanoulis at his shot from as many as nine meters away cannot justify the poor choice for a last shot, after a time-out as well.
The loss means an early end to the national team’s summer and a long period of inactivity before next year’s Eurobasket, that will allow the federation to consider what needs to be changed.