Turning Point: Russia had trimmed a 16-point second quarter deficit to 10 in the early stages of the second half when Italy responded with an 8-1 run to make it a 17-point gap.
Game Hero: Luigi Datome was Mr Do-It-All for Italian coach Simone Piangiani with 25 points, including three three-pointers and eight rebounds, as well as two free throws with 22 seconds left to ice the game.
Stats Don’t Lie: Italy out-shot Russia 47.4% to 37.1% from the field and out-rebounded Russia 37 to 30.
|Luigi Datome stood tall for Italy, scoring 25 points|
Italy went through plenty of injury turmoil in the build-up to EuroBasket 2013 but coach Simone Pianigiani’s men came up with a strong opening game in Group D with a 76-69 win over Russia in front of approximately 2,000 Italian fans in Koper.
The combination of Luigi Datome and Marco Belinelli was too much for Russia with Datome scoring 25 points and grabbing eight rebounds and Belinelli adding 16 points and five assists. Pietro Aradori had 13 points and Marco Cusin collected six points, nine rebounds, two steals and two blocks.
"It was better to start the First Round with a win. This doesn't mean that we will go ahead for sure," said Datome.
"We are very satisfied. Everybody said we are missing a lot of players but I said before that we still have a lot of good players. So we have to keep on playing this way."
Russia wasted a 17-point, five-assist showing by Alexey Shved while Sergey Monya scored 13 points and Vitaly Fridzon hit 12 in the loss.
"We started really bad in defence and played really slow on offence. Our young players were really nervous as it was their first game. They didn't play how they could play," said Russia coach Vasiliy Karasev.
The first run of the game went to Italy with the game tied 9-9 when Belinelli and Datome knocked down three-pointers to open an 18-11 lead. The Italians were up 25-18 after one quarter.
Belinelli and Travis Diener hit long balls to open the second quarter and Russia's struggles in dealing with Italy's defence led to another Datome triple pushing their cushion to 16 points - 40-24. The gap was 42-29 at half-time.
Sergey Karasev opened the second half with a triple to make it a 10-point game but an 8-1 Italian surge pushed the advantage to 52-35. And the cushion was 56-42 after three periods.
In the fourth, Shved did his best to bring Russia back to within 58-49 with eight minutes left. But Datome answered with another triple, and Russia were down 71-60 with 1:48 remaining. Monya nailed two three-pointers and another basket to cut the margin to 72-68 with 24 seconds left. But Datome made two foul shots with 22 seconds to play.