France turned up the heat on defense in the fourth quarter and broke open a close game to win 64-48 over Italy and clinch second place in Group C at the EuroBasket Women.
Sandrine Gruda led France with 14 points, which included a 10 of 12 (83.3%) effort at the free throw line.
After taking a 30-16 lead at the beginning of the third quarter on a pair of Celine Dumerc
|Emilie Gomis had 11 points and six rebounds for France in the win.|
Dubravka Dacic, having struggled on offense in this tournament, discovered her shooting touch and scored six points while also coming to life on defense in a 15-2 Azzurre run.
A three-point play by 18-year-old guard Giorgia Sottana capped the surge for Italy and made it 32-31 with 2:30 remaining in the third quarter.
Italy, spurred on by the partisan crowd in the Palasport S.Filomena, were on the verge of moving in front.
But Edwige Lawson-Wade went to the other end for France and delivered the biggest shot of the game, nailing a three-pointer with the shot clock winding down.
France would end up finishing the third quarter with a 39-35 lead, and after talking about turning up the pressure on defense in the team huddle in between quarters, Jacques Commeres’ team delivered the knockout blow with a 14-2 run to start the final period.
“We knew it was going to be a really tough game,” said France’s Emmeline Ndongue, who had nine points and six rebounds.
“We began well on defense, we made a good start and I think it made the game. At half-time, it was good. They came back in the second half and it was tougher, we had a problem.
“But we answered that. We defended harder and it was good for the team because we reacted together.”
In truth, both teams were outstanding on defense, which led to 16 turnovers for each side.
The French effort was so great in the opening quarter that they led 11-6 with Italy just three of 17 (17.6%) from the floor.
By half-time, the EuroBasket Women hosts were just six of 29 from the field (20.7%) and France seemed to be in control with a 28-16 advantage.
Italy stormed back in the third quarter, but France’s defense won the day.
“Our strength is our defense,” Ndongue said. “We react first by this. When we are a little bit lost, we just defend harder.
“I think this game was a very important one for us,” said France coach Jacques Commeres.
“From the beginning of our training camp, we knew this would be a difficult group because Greece was a difficult first game, everyone knows Russia, and the Italian team is a very good team, very organised with a very good preparation and good shape.”
Russia, who played Greece in Group C’s second game on Wednesday, will go into the qualifying round as the leaders of the Chieti pool with France second and Italy third.
Gianni Lambruschi, the Italy coach, said: “Today on offense, we didn’t play well against a physical, technically sound defense.
“That was the key to the game. There was too much confusion in our offense.
“We need more organisation in our offense. We have to use the whole team in attack, and not individuals. This game will be good for us for (the rest of) the European Championship.”
Italy’s Laura Macchi, who had 15 points to lead all scorers on five of 14 shooting from the field, said: “We lost a great opportunity, coming back in the second half.
“We took some bad shots. Three quarters of the game we played better, but this wasn’t enough to come out and win.”