By Cindy Garcia-Bennett
A 79-70 triumph over Poland was enough to see Italy progress to the qualifying round at the EuroBasket.
Guard Marco Belinelli had a game-high 20 points for the winning side while forward Andrea Bargnani added 19 points - 16 of which came in the first half.
Just like they did four years ago, the Italians bounced back from their nightmare start to the tournament by winning their final and vital group game.
"We have taken a big weight off our shoulders," Italian forward Angelo Gigli said afterwards.
"Now we can go to Madrid with another mentality knowing that we still need to improve on some aspects of our game."
Italy trailed 16-14 going into the second quarter. But that's when Belinelli and Bargnani teamed up to spark a 22-6 run - the former scoring 10 points and the latter nine in that surge - to give Italy a 36-22 lead with six minutes to go in the first half.
However, Poland hit back and managed to go into the break trailing by just six, 41-35.
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The Azzurri came out of the locker rooms refreshed and ready to run and Belinelli's three-pointer early in the third quarter pushed their lead up to 50-38.
Italy were still unable to pull away as Poland refused to give up the fight and made sure to punish the Azzurri for their mistakes.
Four turnovers by the Italians - including two in a row by Matteo Soragna - sparked an 8-0 run by the Poles to cut the deficit to
Gianluca Basile came to Italy’s rescue by hitting consecutive three-pointers late in the third. But, at the other end, a Robert Witka long-range bomb kept Poland's dreams alive as they trailed 64-57 going into the final stanza.
The Azzurri though kept their noses in front and Marco Mordente's shot from beyond the arc allowed Italy to lead 72-66 with five minutes to go.
Italy kept up their focus and stepped up their defense to limit Poland to just two points over the next four minutes as they sealed the win.
The winners were superior in shooting the ball from long range as they hit 12 of 21(57%) attempts while their opponents were only six for 22 (27%).
Italy made 17 of 21 from the free-throw line (81%) while Poland made 6 of 12 (50%).
Poland were out-rebounded 34 to 26.