Greeks Overpower Italians

14 August 2003

There has been no stopping the Greek juggernaut in the weeks before the European Championships, but coach Gianni Ioanidis will always find cause for alarm.

Greece remained unbeaten in their build-up this summer with an 80-59 thrashing of 1999 champions Italy in Varese on Wednesday.

However, the defensive-minded Ioanidis was annoyed that his side had a momentary loss of concentration in the third quarter which allowed the Azzurri to make a three-point shot.

"Although we won by 21 points, I was little bit angry because Italy had a three-point shot (from Dennis Marconato) after I told my players to pick up the defence," said Ioanidis.

Having a coach who identifies the small mistakes is sure to bode well for Greece, who are looking to reassert themselves as heavyweights in the European game.

Greece have now beaten Australia twice, Bulgaria, world champions Serbia & Montenegro and Italy.

Ioanidis's men are such a physical group on defence that it would be folly to suggest they do not have a realistic shot at winning the Eurobasket in Sweden next month.

It did not look good initially against the Italians, who reeled off the game's first nine points. Italy had two key players absent in guards Massimo Bulleri (thigh) and
Gianluca Basile (left knee strain).

The joy was short-lived by the Azzurri, who trailed Greece by the end of the first quarter, 16-15.

The visitors extended their advantage to 34-27 by half-time.

In the third quarter, the Greeks essentially killed the match by scoring 21 unanswered points.

When it was over, Greece had outscored Italy 27-7 in the period.

A trio of players with NBA experience laid the foundation for victory - Jake Tsakalidis, Efthimios Rentzias and Antonis Fotsis.

"We didn't start very well," said Ioanidis.

"Italy went on a 9-0 run, but we concentrated and found our rhythm.

"But don't forget these games are nothing more than a friendly. Italy didn't have two players. In this game, we were a little bit better than the other games but we need to work more.

"We can be better in the future. I can't say anything right now, it's too early."

Greece are certainly making believers out of their opponents.

"It was a very tough game," said Italy coach Carlo Recalcati.

"We played without injured Basile and Bulleri. We started well, but afterward we got tired because the Greek team is full at every position and can kill you from every position."

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