Italy had a tough start to EuroBasket 2009 qualifying by suffering a narrow defeat to Poland earlier this week but they responded in grand style by beating Finland 77-62 on Saturday.
Leading 62-60 early in the fourth quarter against Finland, who had scraped victory in their opener against Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Azzurre reeled off 12 straight points and stayed in command the rest of the way.
Emanuela Ramon started the run with a three-pointer and four minutes later, Chiara Pastore capped it with a three-ball for a 74-60 lead.
Giampiero Ticchi's team finished six of 14 from long range compared to the Finns' three of 14 effort.
Italy's defense did a good job on the Finns, forcing the visitors into 27 turnovers.
Giampiero Ticchi, Italy head coach:
"We all knew that it is an important game that we had to win it. Finland is a team with very good shooters and we allowed them too many offensive rebounds. After the second quarter we played good defence and were able to take a comfortable lead".
Kathrin Ress, Italy center:
"We knew it would not be an easy game. Our goal was to put pressure on their playmaker Piipari."
"We are happy that we won and we are convinced that we can play an inmportant role in European basketball".
Domingo Diaz, Finland head coach:
"First of all I want to say that Italy deserved to win this game. They played very good defence and they did not make many mistakes. Anyway I am happy because my team was very competitive for
almost 35 minutes, even though we were not able to come back."
What I expect from this qualification? We want to be competitive in every game."
Tiina Sten, Finland center:
"It was a tough game. We lost concentration and we lost the game. We are young and we played against a more experienced team. All we learned this evening will be useful for us in the next games."