By David Hein
Italy held Dirk Nowitzki in check but couldn't have expected Johannes Herber to score 10 of his 15 points in the third quarter and lead Germany to a 67-58 victory as the 2005 silver medallists advanced to the 2007 EuroBasket quarter-finals.
Nowitzki had just 15 points - well under his average of 26 points - and 10 rebounds, but Germany received plenty of support from their bench players, who tallied 29 points.
Jan Jagla came on to collect five points and 10 rebounds while Steffen Hamann had 10 points.
|Dirk Nowitzki had only 15 points but his team-mates stepped up.|
"We needed this win, we all played together. Sometimes things go your way when you work hard, you get your reward. I feel today I got my reward for the hard work I put in," said Herber, who had tallied 16 points in his first five games. "I made a few shots which helped my confidence and the team's confidence."
With the victory, Germany reached the quarter-finals for the fourth time in the last five EuroBasket competitions.
It also kept alive Nowitzki's dream of playing in the 2008 Olympics.
He has continually said he would retire from the national team should Germany not reach the Beijing Games next summer.
The 2003 bronze medallists Italy, who were out-rebounded 52-31 and held to just 32% shooting (18-of-56), leave Madrid with their heads down.
"It's a big disappointment for us," said Belinelli, who paced the Italians with 25 points.
"Rebounds have been a problem for us throughout the tournament. I think we lost this game because of that. We gave them more chances to score. My aim coming into this tournament was bringing Italy to the final eight. But I was unable to accomplish that. So it's very frustrating."
The early stages saw a see-saw affair until Bellinelli drained back-to-back three-pointers in the final moments of the first quarter to give Italy an 18-12 lead after one period.
Germany shut down the Italian offense and worked their way back into the game, evening things at 19-19 half-way through the second period.
Bauermann's troops didn't allow Italy to score a basket until Stefano Mancinelli's jumper 14 seconds before half-time.
The teams went into the locker-rooms dead-locked at 27-27.
With the game tied 33-33 with five minutes left in the third period and Nowitzki struggling, Herber took the load upon his shoulders and drained a three-pointer.
After a long two-point jumper, Herber then made a lay-up and another three-pointer to score 10 of Germany's final 13 points in pulling ahead 46-37 going into the fourth period.
Marco Mordente and Belinelli both hit three-pointers as Italy closed to within 48-45 with six minutes left in the game, but Nowitzki drained back-to-back treys to give Germany another seven-point cushion - 54-47.
Germany's lead was back down to 54-52 when Herber came up big again with his third long bomb of the night for a 57-52 advantage.
Italy tried to come back in the final minute but Nowitzki hit two foul shots with 33 seconds left and Pascall Roller drained four free throws in the final 16 seconds.
Germany meet world champions and hosts Spain in the quarter-finals.