Semi-Finals Men: ITA 100 - LTU 91
Italy outshoots Lithuania in second semi surprise
ATHENS - Italy beat some experts at their own game when it shot the lights out during a high-flying 100-91 victory over Lithuania in the Olympic Men's Basketball semifinals at Olympic Indoor Hall on Friday night.
Italy advances to play Argentina in its second gold medal final ever on Saturday, after the South Americans were upset winners in the other semifinal against the United States. Italy won silver behind Yugoslavia in Moscow 1980.
Lithuania must play a fourth consecutive bronze medal game against USA, also on Saturday.
Gianluca BASILE fired up the Athens night with 31 points for Italy, which trailed by 11 twice in the first half and by five almost halfway through the final quarter.
BASILE made seven three-point shots himself and Italy buried 18 of 28 attempts (64 per cent) from the arc. Lithuania made 15 of 35 (43 per cent).
Gianmarco POZZECCO, with 17 points, and Giacomo GALANDA, with 16, were the other marksmen for Italy, dropping three and four triples, respectively.
Arvydas MACIJAUSKAS had 26 points to lead Lithuania, but only two of those came after halftime.
GALANDA and BASILE had a three-pointer each during a 12-0 run in the final five minutes that decided the outcome.
In a game of incredible swings, Lithuania had scored the first 15 points of the final quarter to turn a 10-point deficit into a 78-73 advantage.
Earlier, MACIJAUSKAS started the game where he left off in the quarterfinals, drilling shots from everywhere. He made three triples among 13 points in leading Lithuania to a 16-5 advantage.
The surprising thing, perhaps, was how ready Italy was to play the same game. GALANDA and Massimo BULLERI popped from downtown, too, before MACIJAUSKAS struck again, lengthening Lithuania's lead to 24-15. When Matteo SORAGNA added the last five points of the quarter, however, Italy was as close as 26-20 after 10 minutes.
And Italy was far from done. POZZECCO took the floor and downed a pair of three-pointers on the break. Now it was BASILE's turn.
To an early first-quarter three-pointer, he now added his second-through-fifth shots from the arc, most on the fly after screens, as Italy blasted off on an incredible 18-0 run to a 44-34 lead. It took MACIJAUSKAS's sixth triple to stop Lithuania's drought, but before the half finished BASILE buried his fifth as Italy hit the break with a 49-43 advantage.
Lithuania began the second half without a power forward or centre on the court and used triples by Sarunas JASIKEVICIUS and Mindaugas ZUKAUSKAS to tie 53-53.
Italy was having none of it. SORAGNA and BULLERI got both those triples back and Italy canned six perfect free throws to lead 67-61. Then yet another shooter stepped up, GALANDA splashing his own pair of triples through the net to set Italy's lead at 73-63 after 30 minutes.
No point difference is ever enough against Lithuania, however. It took Saulius STOMBERGAS all of two minutes to score nine unanswered points himself including two shots from the arc to seize the lead.
STOMBERGAS threw up another triple that hit nothing but net for a 78-73 lead before his fifth foul sent him to the bench. Minutes worth of tense foul shooting passed until GALANDA appeared on the wing and knocked down his fourth long shot with 2:22 to play.
When BASILE measured up and hit his sixth and seventh over the next 65 seconds, Italy was up 10 points, 92-82, and time had indeed run out on Lithuania's dream.
Gianluca BASILE - Guard
On the game:
"Even if sometimes things go wrong there is no problem. There is not only one player in this team who can score. We are already second in the Olympic games and we are in the final. They made 90 points. There are a lot, but they let us get in, in the defense. In the crucial point the game went our way. We were effective and lucky. We are not interested in what happened before or what someone have told before. We are interested in the present and now we are in the final".
Massimo BULLERI Guard
On the final:
"I do not care who we are playing against in the final, but the fact that is that we are in the final. Tomorrow we will play at the final of the Olympic Games. The opponent is another story for us. The worst scenario is that we are going to lose and we are going to get the silver medal. Even in this way is something that has happened only once before in the history of the Italian basketball and then I was three years old".
Dino MENEGHIN (ITA), Team Manager
On his memories from the final of 1980 Olympic Games:
"This final is more important. It was more difficult to reach the final USA are playing in this tournament. In Moscow, we didn't have to play against them."
On the final:
"Only God know what is going to happen tomorrow."
Giacomo GALANDA (ITA), Centre
On the game :
"I don't know how we managed to win. It is amazing. Incredible. We are in final! We played with heart. A lot of people made criticism about our offence. Today, we gave answered them. We scored 100 points."
On how he is going to celebrate if Italy wins the gold medal:
"I don't know what crazy thing I am going to do. The sure is that Athens is goin to be ours for one night."
|Press conference quotes:|
Arvydas MACIJAUSKAS, Guard (LTU)
"This was not our best performance at all. We left them open to shoot too many three-pointers. We did not play according to our game plan, and consequently lost both the rebounds and the three-point contest the game turned into."
Nikola RADULOVIC, Forward (ITA)
"What can I say. It's a dream. I just can't believe it happened. Maybe I will when I wake up in the morning. Many thanks to Charlie (RECALCATI), to Italy and to all Italians."
Antanas SIREIKA, Head Coach (LTU)
"Congratulations to Italy, they played an excellent game. We knew their most dangerous weapons, and prepared to restrain their shooters, but didn't manage to and they hit 18 three-pointers. On the contrary, we missed very much our own shooting forces, (Sarunas) JASIKEVICIUS and (Ramunas) SISKAUSKAS, who were not up to their standard tonight."
Carlo RECALCATI, Head Coach (ITA)
On the game:
"We started the game and were determined not to be afraid if Lithuania scored a lot of three-pointers. That's what they usually do. We knew we could make our comeback, and we did not come into the game to lose. Against Lithuania you must not only play good defense, but also stage a very strong offense. We made many three-pointers and prevailed in rebounds. Lithuania had played the best Basketball in this tournament and were undefeated before the game. That's why I'm so pleased with coach SIREIKA's comments and congratulations."
On the famous locker room meeting last year in the European Championship when Italy had lost their first two games:
"Really, that meeting changed the course of things. And we found the right approach to games. Sometimes we overestimated the games, we were too stressed, we tended to forget what really matters in life and the world. Playing Basketball is happiness and joy, not strain. There's enough strain in the world already. We shouldn't be dejected after a defeat; we are lucky to be involved in such a fantastic sport. We just have to face our commitments with professionalism and determination. And we did just this in these Games as well."
On having to play three games in three days:
"We must be familiar with the rules and play by them. All teams came to the quarterfinals tired after a tough and challenging first round, and our opponents will be as tired as we are."
On playing against Argentina in the final:
"I am pleased to play against them. After Argentina beat Greece, we went out to eat with Manu GINOBILI and fixed up an appointment for the final. We have long and unique relations with Argentina, and especially with some players that have played in Italy, like (Hugo) SCONOCHINI whom I have known since he was almost a kid. Still, a considerable rivalry remains between us. Like all South-American teams, Argentina uses imagination and individual skills a lot, but they are also very well-organised and have excellent technical abilities. They are also very athletic, just like Lithuania. Playing against them will be an extra motivation. We must keep the adrenaline flowing, overcome our fatigue, look them in the eye without being intimidated, and -with full respect to our opponents- be prepared to fight."
Source: Athens news service