By Cindy Garcia-Bennett
Red-hot Lithuania will be looking to seal their place in the quarter-finals of the EuroBasket when they take on Italy today.
Lithuania brushed aside Turkey and the Czech Republic in Group C but nearly blew a 21-point lead against Germany before winning to remain unbeaten.
The teams met last year in the last 16 of the FIBA World Championship in Japan and the Lithuanians held off the Azzurri.
Italy coach Carlo Recalcati said: "Those were two different teams so it doesn't mean anything."
|Just as he did four years ago, |
Bulleri is leading the way for Italy
Last Time Out: Italy beat Poland 79-70 and Lithuania edged Germany 84-80.
Key Match-up: Sarunas Jasikevicius v Marco Belinelli. Jasikevicius, the MVP of EuroBasket back in 2003, is one of those players who wasn't with Lithuania last year and has made a big difference in the side. Sara tops the assist chart, averaging seven per game.
Key Stats: In their defeat against Slovenia and France, Italy were out-rebounded but, in their win over Poland, they won the battle of the boards. This is the area that most concerns coach Recalcati. He said: "Lithuania have very good rebounders. But their strength is that their guards, whether it is Jasikevicius or Rimantas Kaukenas are their best rebounders."
X-factor: Massimo Bulleri is the heart and soul of Italy just as he was four years ago when the Azzurri went on their improbable run to the bronze medal in Sweden and qualified for the Olympics. He is showing signs of having the same type of influence on this team.
Speaking out: "It's not going to be easy. We must have our guards also contributing to rebounds in order to stop them playing an open game. But more than anything we cannot be distracted because Lithuania are very good at making a crucial run in two minutes that decides the game. We will try to play to have continuity for the entire 40 minutes." - Italy coach Carlo Recalcati.