SAPPORO (FIBA World Championship
) - Puerto Rico were made to sweat but finally earned their first win at the FIBA World Championship on the second day of the competition in Sapporo.
Julio Toro's men took a big lead early on with the African side struggling to make a shot in the first four minutes of play.
But the islanders were given a wake up call midway through the third quarter when a hard-working Senegal made a comeback to take the lead and bring the Sapporo Arena to life.
Malick Badiane's dunk gave Senegal a 67-66 lead, but the joy was short-lived as Carlos Arroyo replied immediately with a three-pointer to put the Puerto Ricans back in front for good with six minutes remaining.
When Christian Dalmau made a lay-up for a nine-point lead with 47 seconds left on the clock, there was no way back for the Senegalese.
"We struggled against Senegal as they proved too strong in the third quarter," said Puerto Rican center Peter Ramos.
"I think we lost concentration in the second half but it was down to our rivals' merit."
Arroyo had a game-high 29 points and six rebounds while Makhtar Ndiaye and Babacar Cisse had 15 points apiece.
Puerto Rico scored the first 15 points of the game and it came as no surprise that Senegal coach Tapha Gaya called for his first time-out, with his team's shots either clanged off the rim, smacked the side of the backboard or missed completely.
Sitapha Savane finally broke the run with a lay-up made midway through the first period to add his team's first points of the game.
Following their dismal start, Senegal reacted with Cisse and Makhtar Ndiaye greatly contributing to his team going into the second quarter with a 26-16 deficit.
Senegal slowly started to find their game and El Kabir Pene's shot from behind the arc and Cisse's free throw allowed Senegal to go into the break trailing 44-37.
Gaya must have had strong words with his players, who had been a whoeful nine of 39 from the floor in the opening half, as they came out with a totally different approach.
Makhtar and Ndongo Ndiaye proved key for their team's 12-6 run and when Ndongo's dunk gave Senegal the lead for the first time in the game (51-50) with four minutes remaining into the quarter, the crowd got behind them.
A nervous Puerto Rico replied with two consecutive three pointers but going into the final act, Senegal were still very much in the game with only a six point deficit (66-60).
With six minutes remaining, Badiane's dunk gave Senegal the lead at 67-66. But Arroyo struck from the arc to put his team ahead for good.
Two consecutive turnovers by Cisse in the last minute of the game crashed Senegal's hopes of clinching their first win, before Dalmau sentenced the game.
"We have improved a lot during the game," said Senegal forward Malick Badiane.
"This can only be a positive sign for us for our next contests.
"Our shooting was definitely better in the second half." By Cindy Garcia-Bennett