by Paul Nilsen
Turkey launched another thrilling fight back but this time it proved to be mission impossible as Ayse Cora missed two free throws with just one second left in the game to force overtime against Italy.
That meant the hosts picked up a nail biting 56-54 win and maintained their unbeaten record while Turkish coach Firat Okul was left to reflect on a pulsating game and a first loss.
"We played very badly and our forwards did not make enough scores inside for us."
"My team showed again that they have a lot of heart by coming back but this time it was just too much for us."
"I know that when we progress in the tournament we can pick up our offence to give the defence a lift and that will be important for us."
Italy used the momentum gained from their classy first display against Sweden to take the early initiative as they moved into an early 13-9 lead but Turkey put the brakes on the hosts and harvested the last six points of the period to lead 15-13.
The home team then stormed back with 8 straight points to raise the volume of another strong home crowd. That noise got even louder when the local favourites opened up a 29-18 lead, again playing with an admirable vibrancy and doing another great job inside.
Coach Lucchessi had praised his forwards after the first game of the tournament and they responded again with some impressive work in the paint. Point guard Olcay Cakir who was the saviour of Turkey in the first game broke the drought but her team still trailed 30-20 at the interval and looking for a repeat of comeback that they pulled off against Serbia.
It looked a tough prospect with Italy contributing in all areas, highlighted by the fact that they found eight scorers by the break. They also looked full of energy and consequently it was more difficult for the Turkish guards to grab the kind of steals that sparked their success against Serbia.
By midway in the third, Italy still led by double figures and then extended their advantage to 40-24 with Turkey trying vainly to match the intensity of the hosts who also stepped up their defence.
This led to Turkey managing just 4 points in eight minutes and they looked buried until they finally made a move in the last two minutes to give them renewed belief.
They suddenly burst into life and completed an 11-0 run to finish the period with triples from Ozge Kavurmacioglu and Ayse Cora getting the excited Turkish bench of their feet.
It set up an intriguing last part of the game and at 40-35 the result hung in the balance. Cora then drilled an early three-pointer and when she punched the air in delight, the entire Turkish team knew that they had the momentum.
Cora then made a superb baseline move and dropped her shot as she as fouled before going to the line to tie the game up. Thankfully for home supporters biting their fingernails, Alessandra Formica went straight down the floor and also completed her own ‘and-1' play.
Italy then managed to make the pendulum swing back their way with a triple from Marta Masoni putting some daylight between the sides at 51-43 with five minutes remaining.
The game remained intense and with the home team missing four pivotal free throws down the stretch, a triple from Kavurmacioglu put her team back into the contest only for Cora to come up short from the line.