By Jeff Taylor
Italy won their first EuroBasket Women game since 1999 with an impressive 65-55 triumph over Greece on Tuesday in Chieti.
Bolstered by their gritty performance against Russia, which the Italians lost 60-55, the Azzurre prevailed with Kathrin Ress pouring in 16 points and corralling 12 rebounds.
She also came up with two steals and blocked two shots for the victors.
“We played as a team,” Ress said, “and I believe we made a statement to Europe that we are a confident team and a growing team.”
|Italy used a smaller, quicker line-up to counter Anastasia Kostaki and Greece.|
Gianni Lambruschi, the Italy coach, might have opted to attack the smaller Greeks with his big center Dubravka Dacic.
Instead, he used a quicker line-up with Ress responsible for doing most of the hard work on the boards.
The coach also confused his opponents by continually switching defenses.
Italy clearly grew in self-belief after their battle against Russia, when they tied the game early in the fourth quarter and harassed them into making 23 turnovers in the contest.
“I think we felt good because we competed against the strongest team in Europe,” Ress said, “but we were confident.
“We stayed on the floor with them. We have been struggling in the past years, and to be able to compete was a plus.
“When you lose, you are never happy, it did give us confidence.”
Ress, who had 10 points and seven rebounds in the first half when Italy led by as many as 12 points, made her biggest buckets after the break.
Greece scored six straight points to close the gap to 38-35 early in the third quarter, and Ress hit back-to-back jump shots to reclaim the momentum for Italy.
Then late in the fourth quarter, Greece reeled off seven consecutive points to pull to within 58-54.
Ress, with 2:18 showing on the clock, found herself open and buried a 14-footer.
Greece’s hopes then all but died immediately after when Olga Chatzinikolaou missed a pair of free throws and Italy rebounded.
“We just don’t have many tall players, and this hurts,” said Greece coach Konstantinos Missas. “But congratulations to Italy. They played much better than us. We were not mentally prepared to face that game.”
The Greeks have now suffered two defeats at the EuroBasket after their opening day setback against France, and at no time have they found any rhythm on offense.
Anastasia Kostaki, the Greek playmaker who had 13 points and three assists, said: “I don’t want to sound like I’m making excuses, but we try so hard on defense, because we are short, and we need to try so much harder, and afterwards, it’s harder on offense.”
Italy face France in their final Group C game while Greece take on Russia.