Game Hero: The Italians won with truly a team effort but Nicolo Melli came up huge in the decisive surge in finishing with six points, six rebounds and a block.
Stats Don't Lie: Italy's defence held Finland to just 27.3% shooting from the field and11.5% from three-point range. The Finns had shot 36% and 38% from long distance in their first two victories.
|Luigi Datome and Italy contiuned to defy the odds on Saturday with their third-consecutive win|
Italy took a huge step to reaching the second round of EuroBasket 2013 with an impressive 62-44 victory over the previously undefeated Finland to improve to 3-0 in Group D in Koper.
"It is not easy with the quality of the offence of Finland to force them to those percentages (27% from field and 11% from three-point range)," said Italian coach Simone Pianigiani.
"That was a sacrifice by every one. It's something special to keep them to scores of 9, 8 and 10 points in the last three quarters."
Luigi Datome scored a game-high 10 points for Italy while Alessandro Gentile and Andrea Cinciarini both had nine points and Pietro Aradori and Marco Cusin added eight points.
It's the first time Italy started a EuroBasket since 1997 when Italy, who have won 11 straight games including the 2013 qualifiers last summer, lost in the final to Yugoslavia.
"Italy are a great basketball team and great teams win games. They play hard. They were able to get us out of our offence. We can complain about our shooting percentages but you can credit that to their defence. It was a good basketball game but they played better and deserved to win," said Finnish coach Henrik Dettmann.
Teemu Rannikko and Sasu Salin scored eight points each to pace Finland, who dropped to 2-1 in the group.
Salin opened the game for Finland with two triples and the Scandinavians were up 14-10. The biggest margin was five points when Rannikko nailed a long ball to make it 17-12. The margin was 17-14 after one quarter.
The Finns led 20-16 on Rannikko's three-point play. But Italia held Finland to just one field goal over the final 8:23 minutes of the second quarter and used a 13-2 run to close the first half with a 31-26 lead going into the break.
Shawn Huff scored two baskets to close Suomi within 33-32 early in the second half, but the Italians again buckled down defensively as Finland made just one basket in the final 6:12 of the third period.
The Azzurri then used a 13-2 surge for a 46-34 advantage after 30 minutes.
Guido Rosselli came off the bench and set the tone for the fourth quarter, starting it with a three-pointer for the Italians.
Finland would not get closer than 14 points the rest of the way.