Quarter Finals Men: ITA 83 - PUR 70
Italy eases past Puerto Rico to semis
ATHENS - Italy will have a chance at the second Olympic Men's Basketball medal in its history after registering a heady 83-70 quarterfinal victory over Puerto Rico on Thursday at Olympic Indoor Hall.
Italy will face undefeated Lithuania in one semifinal on Friday night. The United States and the winner of the last quarterfinal, Greece vs. Argentina, will be paired in the other semifinal.
Italy's only previous Olympic medal, a silver, came at Moscow in 1980.
Another fine defensive effort and poise throughout the game allowed Italy to control the scoreboard consistently against Puerto Rico.
Massimo BULLERI (pictured) was decisive with 20 points for the winners, while Gianluca BASILE added 15. Denis MARCONATO posted a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds while helping to shut down the inside game of Puerto Rico.
Guards Elias AYUSO and Carlos ARROYO had 24 and 23 points respectively for Puerto Rico but the rest of their teammates were quiet on offense.
Italy established its defense early, allowing just a three-pointer by AYUSO after three minutes, but soon Puerto Rico found ways to take a 13-12 lead on a feed by ARROYO to Daniel SANTIAGO. BULLERI brought Italy back in front with five straight points and then finished the quarter with free throws that gave his team a 23-20 lead.
The teams traded baskets in the second quarter until BASILE, Gianmarco POZZECCO and BULLERI scored six unanswered points that provided Italy with the biggest lead of the game so far, 40-32. ARROYO and Sharif FAJARDO were able to cut into that advantage and bring Puerto Rico within 41-35 at halftime.
Italy found its way to bigger leads after halftime thanks to BULLERI's driving ability. Midway through the quarter, with Italy clinging to a four-point edge, BULLERI split the defense for one uncontested layup then raced full court for another that came with a foul shot. When BASILE followed with a 3-point strike, Italy was up 12 points, 54-42. Only an Italian turnover and shot from the arc by AYUSO on the last possession got the difference below double digits, at 60-52, after 30 minutes.
Italy upped the lead to 11 points, 63-52, to start the final quarter, but with ARROYO hitting five points, Puerto Rico came within 66-60 with 6:20 to play. Puerto Rico missed several long shots then, however, and Italy took advantage, pushing its lead back to double digits on a triple by Giacomo GALANDA. Puerto Rico had nothing left in its tank, but BASILE left little opportunity for miracle comebacks when he drained six perfect free throws near the end.
Italy is going forward, while Puerto Rico will play in Saturday morning's fifth-place game against the loser of the Greece vs. Argentina quarterfinal later on Thursday.
Massimo BULLERI, guard (ITA)
On their qualification:
"I can't say to much, I want to taste and feel this great moment. Italy proved it belongs in the elite of World basketball. We were better during the fourth periods fo the game we had the total control of the rythm and we took a clear qualification"
On their team's secret:
"It's simple. We showed what we have. And we don't have so much talent, we dont' have height and muscles but we have the best heart in this tournament."
On the semi-final game:
"We don't know what to say and to tell you the tooth we don't care because we are very succesful. Lithuania is probably the favourite, but we gonna play for fun and see what happens."
Gianluca BASILE (ITA), Guard
On the game:
"We knew we had to face a strong team, but we were well prepared and we had the luck on our side. We fought and we got to the semi-finals".
On the semi-final against Lithuania:
"Lithuania is one of the favourites. A very good and strong team. We are happy to get to the semi-final. We will fight also against Lithuania, we will chase the victory and if we get a little bit lucky, who knows".
Denis MARCONATO (ITA), Center
On the game:
"The Puerto Rican picked us as opponents and gave away the game to Greece. Now we have showed them that we are not to be taken lightly as a team."
On the semifinal against Lithuania:
"Lithuania is the top team in this Tournament. It is not going to be an easy game, but we are going to try our best for the win."
Nikola RADULOVIC (ITA), Forward
On the game:
"We are a fierce, tough team. We do not use tactics in our games; we base our playing on our pick an' rolls and whatever happens, happens. Usually, the best happens."
|Press conference quotes:|
Luca GARRI, Forward (ITA)
"This is an incredible feeling of satisfaction. If you haven't experienced it, you can't explain it. We are in the semifinals and will fight for a medal, it's a dream come true. We played the way we wanted and didn't let them run. The whole team contributed to the win."
Carlo RECALCATI, Head Coach (ITA)
"We tried to stop their movement with the ball and make them run after us, so that they reached the end of the game tired. It was not easy. It was a strong game for 40 minutes, but we reacted very well and I am satisfied. The key factor was defense. Against Lithuania, there will be another tough game. Lithuania plays the best Basketball in Europe, and is a complete team both defensively and offensively, with a strong attitude. We know that they are the game's favourites, but we will be ready."
Elias AYUSO, Guard (PUR)
"Italy was more aggressive than we were in defense and offensive rebounding. Their guards played very well and carried the team, while we missed a lot of shots in the first half. In the second we tried to balance the game inside and outside, but we weren't able to."
Julio TORO, Head Coach (PUR)
"It's clear that in this game one team dominated and the other struggled, and the latter was us. We had our chances to follow their rhythm, and even with three or four minutes to go we were in the game. We didn't manage to win. We feel dejected, but we have to fight and give our best for fifth place on Saturday. Puerto Rico's best showing was 4th place 40 years ago in Tokyo, while 16 years ago we were 7th. Fifth place would be very good, but sixth would be OK as well. We didn't do as badly in this tournament considering that defending World Champion Serbia/Montenegro did not make the quarterfinals, neither did New Zealand that was 4th in Indianapolis. Hopefully our performance here will be a reference for the future.
I believe that the final will be played between the United States and Lithuania. Lithuania is a very good and talented team, but we all know that in fact all the talent, the art, the physical attributes lie with the United States. They are my favourites, but whether or not they win, they are the best. They are still ahead and the rest of the world will need ten to fifteen years to catch them."
Source: Athens news service