Calabria's Hot Start Sets Tone For Victorious Italians

By David Hein

Four Italians scored in double figures as Italy beat Ukraine 99-62 on Sunday at the 2005 EuroBasket to keep alive their chances of repeating their bronze medal from 2003.

Dante Calabria led all scorers with 20 points, while Alex Righetti had 19, Massimo Bulleri added 14 and Denis Marconato chipped in 12. Italy collected their second win in Group A, but thanks to Germany's win over Russia, finished in third place in the group and will have to travel to Podgorica to play an elimination game against Croatia.

"It's not easy to have this kind of reaction to a loss of more than 30 points," Italian assistant coach Fabrizio Frades said, referring to Saturday's 87-61 drubbing at the hands of Russia. "We didn't play in the first half (against Russia).

Calabria came into Sunday's game at the Millenium Center having scored just nine points in Italy's first two games. But the naturalized American-born forward drained four three-pointers in scoring 14 points in the first quarter as Italy used runs of 8-0 and 11-0 to open a 29-18 lead after one period.

"I just got some open shots and hit them," Calabria said. I'm happy I was able to give my team a lift."

"We had the reaction we needed after the loss against Russia," Italian center Angelo Gigli said.

"We have a lot of guys who can come up big. One day it's Dante. one day is Gianluca (Basile). Another day it can be Stefano (Mancinelli). Every time it's a different guy," Gigli said.

Ukraine pulled ahead by one 33-32 with a 15-0 run of their own. But they would never lead again.

Italy and Ukraine traded baskets the rest of the first half, and coach Carlo Recalcati's team owned a 46-41 lead at the break.

Ukraine missed their first five shots of the second half and committed four turnovers as Italy pushed the advantage up to 55-41. And foul trouble limited Ukraine's chances of coming back to snatch their first victory at these championships.

The Italians stayed on their game and pushed the lead to 39 late in the game.

Italy collected 20 assists as a team compared to Ukraine's nine. The Italian defence came up with 11 steals in forcing Ukraine into 17 turnovers.

Serhiy Lishchuk led Ukraine with 13 points but had foul trouble throughout the game. And Rostyslav Kryvych and twin brother Igor combined for 19 points. Los Angeles

Lakers forward Stanislav Medvedenko didn't start the game and scored eight points in 25 minutes.

"It's a big disappointment," Ukrainian guard Andrii Lebediev said. "We need to think about what happened, what we did well and what not. Maybe it's true that we're not as good as the others. We need to understand that. This is life."

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