Spain 81 Italy 79

13.09.2003

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Pau Gasol was limited to just 2 points in the second half
Spain moved on to the finals after winning a hard fought win over tournament surprise Italy, who once again played a great game. The game was a tough, physical and very close contest that featured 15 lead changes and 19 ties between the two teams. Spain's hero of the night was Juan Carlos Navarro.

Someone finally found a way to stop Spain's star Pau Gasol, the most dominant player in Eurobasket2003 up to this point. Italy played terrific defense on Gasol, and held him to only 2 points, both coming on free throws, in the second half. Gasol started off great and scored 10 points in the first quarter, dunking over italian players on several occations. He was almost invisible after that, finishing with 14 , hipoints for the game. In the second half Gasol only attempted one shot and missed it.

Unfortunatley for Italy they had not conuted on Juan Carlos Navarro breaking out of his slump in the second half. Navarro had a bad game in the quarterfinals and scored 2 points in the first half of this one on 1-5 shooting. In the second half Navarro came out as a completely different player. He scored 8 points in the third quarter and 13 in the fourth. Navarro came up with all the big baskets for Spain down the stretch hitting 3 tough runners in the lane in the last 3 minutes of the game. Navarro shot 7-10 from the field and 5-6 from the line in the second half to finish with 23 points.

"We needed help from the outside in this game.", said Gasol. "Juan Carlos Navarro has always been a very talented player. He is aggressive, can shoot and penetrate. He did all that in the second half. I hope he will play as good tomorrow."

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Spanish Fans
Navarro still almost managed to become the villain for Spain when he committed an offensive foul, pushing off his defender, with 18.6 seconds left, setting up a last shot that could win the game for Italy. Navarro was lucky that Massimo Bulleri missed a fadeaway jumper at the buzzer, making sure that Navarro's amazing second half heroics wasn't in vain.

"Of course, I was a little bit nervous during Italy's last possession.", said Spanish coach Moncho Lopez. "I jumped off the bench when Bulleri took the shot."

Bulleri was Italy's best player in the game, scoring a game high 24 points and getting a team high 6 rebounds. Gianluca Basile, 14 points, Giacomo Galanda, 11 points and 5 rebounds, and Roberto Chiacig, 10 points and 5 rebounds, also had good games for Italy. Perhaps Bulleri tried to do too much on his own for Italy, he shot only 8 for 20 in the game. The last play was drawn up for a Galanda 3-pointer, but Bulleri ended up taking the shot.

Italy surprised everyone by reaching the semifinals in this tournament. They were underdogs against both Germany and Greece in previous rounds, and came very close to upsetting another favourite, taking Spain to the last minute in this game.

Italy went to halftime with a 6-point lead, 44-38. "We had problems on both defense and offense in the first half. Italy played really well.", said Lopez.

Besides Navarro, Spain also got strong efforts from Jose Garbajosa, 11 points and 8 rebounds, and Carlos Jimenez, 8 points and 9 rebounds. Gasol had 14 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks. Spain outrebounded Italy 34 to 25 and also shot 55 % from the floor compared to 48 % for Italy.

The win means that Spain is qualifed for next year’s Olympic Games. Spain will face Lithuania in the finals on Sunday, while Italy will play France in a game for third place and the final European Olympic spot.


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