By Eurohoops Team/ email@example.com
Italy was well behind in the first half, but notched the 94-89 crazy overtime victory versus Puerto Rico in 2019 FIBA World Cup Group J action at Wuhan on Sunday.
Marco Belinelli powered the comeback charge with 27 points. Danilo Gallinari finished with 22 points to his name. Awudu Abass followed with 14 points, Amedeo Tessitori contributed with 12 and Paul Biligha with 10 to their national team’s 3-2 finish.
Despite falling in a 26-point hole and wrapping up the tournament without key players Luigi Datome and Alessandro Gentile, the Azzurri stormed back. They even got a 7-point lead late in the fourth quarter, but Angel Rodriguez forced five extra minutes with a bucket off a missed free throw in the dying seconds of the fourth quarter.
Puerto Rico allowed the Italians back in the game during the fourth quarter. Meo Sacchetti’s national team opened the final period with a 20-4 run, but only secured the “W” with a strong overtime showing.
“We did not want to be remembered for the worst loss in Italy’s World Cup history” said the Italian national team’s head coach in the post-game press conference. “We closed the gap, but were lucky that they missed the last shot.”
“It was two different halves” mentioned Eddie Casiano, the head coach of Puerto Rico. “We played a winning game in the first half and did nothing in the second.” On his national team’s run at China: “We had a good tournament. Not many people expected us to advance.”
Clutch Rodriguez and Gary Browne went for 13 points, Renaldo Balkman improved after halftime to score a team-high 14 points. David Huertas posted 11 points, but missed a game-tying three with 17 seconds to go.
“We had a big lead, getting a lot of transition points, but in the second half we got a little stagnant in our defense” took out Isaiah Pineiro following his 6 points. “It was a good learning lesson that we have to play 40 minutes.”
The losing side seemed set for the 3-2 tally but ultimately settled with 2-3 and last place in the group. However, both national teams had already secured an Olympic qualifiers berth with their World Cup performance at China.
Photo Credit: FIBA.BASKETBALL