Teenage sensation Arthur Kaluma put up a man-of-the-match performance to inspire Uganda past a stubborn Morocco side 77-65 at the Salle El Bouazzaoui and ultimately qualify the Silverbacks to a historic third straight FIBA AfroBasket.
The 19-year old scored a game-high 20 points, picked five rebounds and made two steals on his debut for the Silverbacks to complete the double over the North Africans having won 94-90 in the November 2020 window in Alexandria, Egypt.
The home side took an early lead 5-4 in the first quarter but the Ugandans pulled away thereafter leading 20-10 at the end of the first quarter to make clear their intentions on the night.
Ishmail Wainright and Robinson Opong gave Uganda a firm start attacking the basket at free will and enjoying a decent shooting percentage to lay a good foundation for Kaluma and Eric Rwahwire who came off the bench to take charge of Uganda’s fortunes.
The Moroccans responded with a zonal defence that Uganda struggled to break down as the home side maximised on the steals to score in transition and cut their deficit to just a point 32-31 at the half time break.
In the third quarter, the Silverbacks returned with a wounded attitude and charged at the Moroccans who were caught unaware in the opening four minutes to force head coach Labib El Hamrani’s hand as he resorted to the veterans – Mohamed Choua and Soufiane Kourdou who brought more heat to the game – but Uganda maintained a double digit lead at the end of the third quarter 55-44.
Regardless, Morocco stayed the course and fought for their lives taking the game to a four-point battle as they trailed 62-58 halfway through the last quarter.
However, that did not last long as Kaluma went on a run scoring 10 of his eventual 20 points in the last five minutes of the game to announce his arrival on the Ugandan roster as a dependable player going forward.
The Silverbacks will now join Group D alongside former African champions Senegal, Cameroon and debutants South Sudan while Cape Verde join Group A alongside hosts Rwanda, 11-time record African champions Angola and DR Congo. – FIBA