By Jeff Taylor
EuroBasket Women hosts Italy didn’t upset Russia, but they went pretty darn close, losing 60-55 in the best game of the tournament so far.
With inspirational defense and excellent home support, the Azzurre played their hearts out and even tied the team that captured the silver medal at last year’s FIBA World Championship early in the fourth quarter.
But the offensive struggles that plagued the Italians for the first three quarters continued to hurt them in the final period and Russia managed to do just enough to win.
|Greece will need Maltsi at her best against Italy.|
The challenge for Italy will be to build on the strong defensive performance when they run onto the floor in Chieti to take on a Greece team that looked short on confidence in a 58-50 defeat to France.
Greece played hard, and in the words of French coach Jacques Commeres, “they are organized as well.”
But Greece coach Konstantinos Missas did not get the offense he needed from Evanthia Maltsi, his leading player.
Maltsi, he felt, played with passion on defense but too often lost her discipline when the Greeks had the ball.
Greece committed a lot of turnovers as well, something that Italy coach Gianni Lambruschi will have taken note of as full-court pressure could be the game-plan for the Azzurre.
It’s worth repeating.
If there is one thing the Italians did well against Russia, they played great defense and challenged them on the boards.
Greece must be ready.
"Tomorrow is our tournament,” Missas said after the loss to France.
“We have to be prepared for a great game against Italy
Key Matchup: Laura Macchi v Maltsi. Both are great talents on offense. If Maltsi does have to guard Macchi and loses her concentration, Macchi will punish her by driving to the basket as she did against the Russians. Maltsi will be feeling the pressure to have a big game after a frustrating effort in the opening loss to France.
Key Stat: Greece turned the ball over 24 times against France, and Italy forced Russia to commit 23 turnovers.
X-Factor: Dubravka Dacic was just one of 10 (10%) from the floor against Russia, but the 1.98m center should have more success against the smaller Greeks if she is able to receive her passes on the low block. Greece must keep her away from the basket.
Speaking out: “We have to play our best game against Greece. We have to beat them, and the same against France. If we can play the same kind of defense that we played against Russia, I think we can make it (to the next round)” – Francesca Zara of Italy