By Johnny Askounis/ email@example.com
Italy made it to the quarterfinals of the Olympic Games after storming back against Nigeria to secure the win, 80-71, at Saitama Super Arena on Saturday.
Nicolo Melli and Achille Polonara put the finishing touches on a 14-0 sprint generating a 70-64 lead. The European side held on to secure the victory punching in the ticket for the next round.
The team led by Meo Sacchetti will rank first in Group B if Germany beats Australia by a margin of 17 points or less later in Tokyo. It will be in second place in any other case. A helpful reminder, the three group winners and the best-placed second will be seeded for Sunday’s draw.
“Against Germany, we recovered in the last five minutes. Against Australia, we tried until the end but we didn’t close the gap. With Nigeria it was important we stayed in the game because we finished the third quarter down by 8 but we started really well with our defense in the fourth quarter. We closed the gap and had 4-5 great defenses to break open the game and that was important,” noted the Italy boss.
Nigeria came back from an early 15-point deficit and mainly by virtue of solid defense went up by eight points in the last period but failed to get the job done. Mike Brown’s team bowed out with a 0-3 record.
“It’s kind of the same old song. We haven’t done a good job of taking care of the basketball as evident, and that is the case right there. Don’t let Italy score 27 points off our turnovers. We talked about that going into the game, we have to take care of the basketball,” pointed out head coach Brown, “I think out of the 12 teams there might been only one other team that was worse than us.”
Chimezie Metu logged a game-high 22 points and also pulled down ten rebounds in the losing effort. Jordan Nwora finished the Olympic tournament with an average of 21 points per match after banking in 20 points.
Photo Credit: FIBA.BASKETBALL