LONDON – An irresistible force met with a very moveable object on Thursday and the result was a record-breaking scoring spree for the U.S. men’s basketball team over a hapless Nigeria at the Olympic Basketball Arena.
The defending champions rolled to a 156-73 victory, scoring the most points ever in an Olympic game on a mind-boggling shooting night spearheaded by Carmelo Anthony.
Anthony made 13 of his 16 shots, including an incredible 10-of-12 from beyond the three-point line for a 37-point haul.
The points total easily eclipsed the previous record of 138 set by Brazil in 1988. The U.S. halftime total of 78 points was also an Olympic record, officials said.
“Every time that I touched it, the ball was going in as far as the zone that I was in,” Anthony told reporters.
The entire U.S. team, given a wide berth by Nigerian defenders, enjoyed an extraordinarily accurate night of target practice as they made 71 percent of their shots, including 29-of-46 from long range, and 30-of-37 from inside the arc.
“We shot better than any team in a game I ever coached. Our guys just couldn’t miss tonight,” U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
His Nigerian counterpart Ayodele Bakare could only shake his head in disbelief at the U.S. performance. “They shot an unbelievable percentage. I felt we could have played better defensively,” he lamented.
The victory improved the U.S. to 3-0 in the preliminary round while Nigeria slipped to 1-2.
Kzyzewski bristled, however, when he was asked at the post-game news conference whether he felt his team had been cruel to humiliate an overmatched opponent.
“We didn’t play LeBron (James) and Kobe (Bryant) in the second half. We benched Melo (Anthony) despite how he was playing. We didn’t play (Kevin) Durant. We didn’t take any fast breaks. There is a 24-second clock. The shots we took, we happened to hit,” he said.
“A coach would think it humiliating if we didn’t play hard. We just want to play hard and win.”
Ike Diogu, who played six seasons with various NBA clubs, led Nigeria with 27 points.
“When they shoot like this, I don’t think there is any team that could beat them,” Diogu said.
Nigerian forward Koko Archibong said it was quite an experience being part of the game.
“On the one side, it’s terrible to get whupped like that,” he said. “But on the other side it was something impressive to see, to be a part of, to witness in person.”