By Cesare Milanti / firstname.lastname@example.org
MANILA, Philippines – Silencing the buzzing crowd in the Smart Araneta Coliseum, Italy managed to get the upper hand against the Philippines, as the hosts remain winless so far in the 2023 FIBA World Cup in Manila. Gianmarco Pozzecco’s team, following the loss against the Dominican Republic, won 90-83.
Simone Fontecchio was Italy’s top scorer with 18 points despite shooting 5/17 from the field. Being effective since the first offensive possession, Stefano Tonut was Italy’s spark from points (5/5), attacking the rim effectively to finally providing 13 points and nine assists.
Moreover, Nicolò Melli had a remarkable all-around performance of ten points, seven rebounds, and six assists, while Marco Spissu went close to a double-double with 13 points and nine assists. Giampaolo Ricci went also in double-digits with 14 points and 4/6 from three.
“First of all, I have to congratulate the Philippines: you have to be proud of your players, you fought. I went to Utah to watch Fontecchio play with Clarkson and I know his great attitude. I suffered a lot, but I have twelve amazing guys, and I love each of them. I’m really happy because for us it wasn’t an easy group. Against Serbia, we will play our normal basketball”, Gianmarco Pozzecco said in the post-game press conference.
“A win is a win. We played well, we just did what we needed to do. We shared the ball on offense, that was the key against a champion like Clarkson. We showed on the court that we can really”, Marco Spissu added.
Talking about the Philippines, Jordan Clarkson was once again their leading scorer with 23 points to go with seven rebounds and six assists. Dwight Ramos started the game hot with two straight threes but ended up with 2/8 in that category for 14 points. Fan favorite Rhenz Abando, welcomed with huge rounds of applause whenever he entered the court, finished with eight points.
“We competed in all three games to give our best efforts. It’s weird, especially us hosting and being a home country, hearing the boos to our coach. Simone is a really good player, he’s been super cool. Knowing what he does, he shoots the ball really well, he’s strong and big. I’m happy to see him succeed, and I hope to stream together with me and Lauri. Italy is lucky to have Simone, such a great dude and great competitor”, Jordan Clarkson said in the post-game. “Very proud of the effort of our players, what a way to fight coming after two painful losses. I couldn’t ask for more: We continue to fight ow“, head coach Chot Reyes added.
Unlike the first two games, Italy started well from beyond the arc, going rapidly up 10-5 with back-to-back threes by Spissu and Melli. However, the home side bounced back to go up 18-15 at 3:32 minutes left in the first, forcing Italy’s first timeout. They kept rolling, with Fajardo putting in the buzzer-beater to close the first ten minutes with a three-point lead (23-20). It was the first time in this 2023 FIBA World Cup that Italy conceded 20+ points in the opening quarter.
Pozzecco’s national team regained the lead with two minutes in the second quarter at 28-26. After what resulted in a tight and nervous second quarter, Italy found the biggest lead so far at 38-29 following a technical foul after flopping. The good ball movement provided by the guests contributed to the 48-39 lead at halftime: that’s only the second time in the 21st century that Italy has scored more than 45 points in the first half of a FIBA World Cup game.
With an impressive three-point shooting performance by Alessandro Pajola in the third quarter, Italy managed to enter the last one up 73-60, controlling the game in the remaining ten minutes to bring home the final victory. Overall, the Italian national team shot way better behind the three-point line (41%, 17/41) after having 12/60 from three in their first two 2023 FIBA World Cup games. Moreover, they managed to force 14 turnovers.
On the third day of games in Group A, the Dominican Republic remained unbeaten by overcoming Angola as well, advancing to the second round with a 3-0 record. Italy followed them as the second force with a 2-1 record, with the African team right behind at 1-2. The Philippines, instead, closed it at 0-3.
PHOTO CREDIT: 2023 FIBA World Cup