02 August 2013

UGANDA : Start of business end

Oilers’ guard Enabu (L) tries to block UCU’s guard
Oilers’ guard Enabu (L) tries to block UCU’s guard Kiviri. PHOTO BY Ismail Kezaala  
KAMPALA- If the finish to the Airtel National Basketball League first round is anything to go by, the second will even be much better, much more competitive.
UCU Canons had a nine-match winning streak snapped by DMark Power and eventually lost their final two games of the round. Power, having won 10 in 10, were finally obliterated 91-65 by Riham Warriors.
UCU, second with a 9-2 record, and City Oilers, fourth, having won eight and lost three (8-3), get the first shot at the Lugogo MTN Arena following a two-week break. You cannot under or over state the importance of the next 11 games leading up to the playoffs. “All second round games are important for classification and confidence,” Oilers’ coach Mandy Juruni said.
How much of a playoff picture will we get in the 2nd round? “Hopefully a lot,” UCU coach Nicholas Natuhereza, whose team edged the first encounter 52-47, responded.

Teams are even setting a target on the number of wins to get a favourable seeding. “I have been telling the team the only way we can better the first round is by going unbeaten,” Natuhereza added.
Adding that; “Or obviously losing just once but I think most importantly playing the kind of basketball that will give us a chance in the play offs!”

For that to happen, guard Sudi Ulanga has got to rise from his slumber as he is yet to explode offensively as Cyrus Kiviri has taken most of the responsibility in the backcourt.
Juruni has a similar worry. His guards, with the exception of Jimmy Enabu, who scored a team-high 16 points for Team Uganda, on the All-Star Night last Friday, have laboured so far.
To become contenders, two or three other players have got to take the scoring burden off Rwandan ‘big man’ Kami Kabange. Mohammed Yusuf should be the first target for improvement.

Their dependency was brutally exposed in their loss to UCU. Kabange scored a game-high 15 and 12 rebounds but everyone else struggled.

Opting to focus on the team, Juruni has his sights on no more than three defeats from now on. “We also have a target of playing better than we did in round one and try to win the games that we lost.

“We don’t want to lose three games.” Only UCU, Power and KIU Titans managed to beat the newcomers in the first 11 games.

The regular season has become a relatively easy routine for UCU. You can hardly judge them basing on what they have achieved. Judgement only comes in the playoffs. Coach Nicholas Natuhereza cruised through a large portion of the first round with nine successive victories only to lose the final two games to Power and Ndejje (56-57). Yet to appear in the finals and having booked them a semifinal elimination ticket against Warriors year on year, it’s breaking that barrier that can deliver them. Signing a champion from last year in Kiviri and Ivan Rumanyika from Miracle Eagles plus promoting Jonathan Egwau (UCU JV) has made them stronger
UCU vs. City Oilers
WOMEN: UCU vs. Stormers (5.30pm)

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