Four Italians scored in double figures as Italy beat Ukraine 99-62 on Sunday at the 2005 EuroBasket to keep alive their chances of repeating their bronze medal from 2003.
Dante Calabria led all scorers with 20 points, while Alex Righetti had 19, Massimo Bulleri added 14 and Denis Marconato chipped in 12. Italy collected their second win in Group A, but thanks to Germany's win over Russia, finished in third place in the group and will have to travel to Podgorica to play an elimination game against Croatia.
"It's not easy to have this kind of reaction to a loss of more than 30 points," Italian assistant coach Fabrizio Frades said, referring to Saturday's 87-61 drubbing at the hands of Russia. "We didn't play in the first half (against Russia).
Calabria came into Sunday's game at the Millenium Center having scored just nine points in Italy's first two games. But the naturalized American-born forward drained four three-pointers in scoring 14 points in the first quarter as Italy used runs of 8-0 and 11-0 to open a 29-18 lead after one period.
"I just got some open shots and hit them," Calabria said. I'm happy I was able to give my team a lift."
"We had the reaction we needed after the loss against Russia," Italian center Angelo Gigli said.
"We have a lot of guys who can come up big. One day it's Dante. one day is Gianluca (Basile). Another day it can be Stefano (Mancinelli). Every time it's a different guy," Gigli said.
Ukraine pulled ahead by one 33-32 with a 15-0 run of their own. But they would never lead again.
Italy and Ukraine traded baskets the rest of the first half, and coach Carlo Recalcati's team owned a 46-41 lead at the break.
Ukraine missed their first five shots of the second half and committed four turnovers as Italy pushed the advantage up to 55-41. And foul trouble limited Ukraine's chances of coming back to snatch their first victory at these championships.
The Italians stayed on their game and pushed the lead to 39 late in the game.
Italy collected 20 assists as a team compared to Ukraine's nine. The Italian defence came up with 11 steals in forcing Ukraine into 17 turnovers.
Serhiy Lishchuk led Ukraine with 13 points but had foul trouble throughout the game. And Rostyslav Kryvych and twin brother Igor combined for 19 points. Los Angeles
Lakers forward Stanislav Medvedenko didn't start the game and scored eight points in 25 minutes.
"It's a big disappointment," Ukrainian guard Andrii Lebediev said. "We need to think about what happened, what we did well and what not. Maybe it's true that we're not as good as the others. We need to understand that. This is life."
Italy look to shake off their big loss against Russia and save their 2005 EuroBasket campaign with a victory against Ukraine on Sunday in Group A.
Italian coach Carlo Recalcati said his team must come up with the energy they showed against Germany, when they overcame a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win in overtime.
But at the same time, he said the Russian game - a 87-61 blowout - can't be just passed over.
"We have to remember this game and be angry when we play," the coach said. "And we have to begin the right way. We can't play soft."
"This was a great lesson for us. It's better it happened now than later," Italian forward Angelo Gigli said. "We have to have a reaction to this and show that this game was a mistake."
The Italians - third place in 2003 and silver medalists from the 2004 Olympics - would most like to secure Tuesday's cross over elimination game against Croatia or Turkey with a victory against Ukraine in the Millenium Center in Vrsac.
If Italy lose by 14 points, however, they are eliminated. With a defeat by less than 14 points, Italy are through if Russia beat Germany in the Group A nightcap. Should Germany win, then Ukraine would be through to the elimination game.
Ukraine (0-2) meanwhile have their own blowout to recover from, following Germany's 84-58 victory.
"We had no solution for the tall players from Germany," guard Andriy Lebediev said.
Italy's big men Roberto Chiacig, Denis Marconato and Gigli aren't as athletic as the Germans. But they are are big and strong.
Center Serhiy Lishchuk has been the sole bright spot for Ukraine (0-2), leading the team in scoring (15.5), rebounding (9.5 - 6.0 offensive boards), blocked shots (1.5) and steals (1.0). Los Angeles Lakers forward Stanislav Medvedenko has been solid, averaging 14.5 points and 4 rebounds.
But Ukraine have struggled from the outside, hitting just 22 per cent of their three-point attempts. Needing a big victory against Italy to secure third place, it would be better if the Ukrainian sharp-shooters can find their touch.