By Johnny Askounis/ email@example.com
After edging out Italy in overtime last Friday, France was the clear winner at the bottom end of the home-and-away series Tuesday.
Vincent Collet’s side dominated all the way to the 100-68 victory in Montpellier. Former NBA player and AS Monaco newcomer Elie Okobo recorded a game-high 18 points plus four assists in 18 minutes.
New York Knicks’ Evan Fournier and free agent Thomas Heurtel put up 13 points each. Additional solid contributions by Rudy Gobert of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot of the Atlanta Hawks behind a couple of 10-point showings. Oklahoma City Thunder’s Theo Maledon threw in eight more points.
Next up for the Blues will be Belgium in the same venue Thursday. Switching to Group K of the 2023 FIBA World Cup European Qualifiers, a home game versus the Czech Republic and a road game against Bosnia-Herzegovina are scheduled for next week. And into Group B of the 2022 EuroBasket, Germany, Lithuania, Hungary, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Slovenia shape the schedule in Cologne.
As for Italy, captain Nicolo Melli dropped a team-high 13 points. Following the former player of the New Orleans Pelicans and Dallas Mavericks, currently employed at EA7 Emporio Armani Milan, was the offseason addition to the Boston Celtics, Danilo Gallinari logging 11 points in 18 minutes. Simone Fontecchio of the Utah Jazz was limited to four points in 24 minutes. Experienced forward Luigi Datome was rested.
Held to the losing end against France in both Bologna and Montpellier, the team guided by Gianmarco Pozzecco is set to wrap up preparations in a four-team tournament to be held in Hamburg Friday through Saturday. Matchups opposite Ukraine and Georgia on 24 and 27 August, respectively, start Group L of the World Cup Qualifiers. In early September, the hosts of EuroBasket’s Group C will welcome Estonia, Greece, Ukraine, Croatia, and Great Britain in Milan.
Photo Credit: FIBA.BASKETBALL