|11 August 2013|
|Italy's top scorer Francesca Pan will be hoping to rebound from her mini-slump in the semi-final |
In their second round match at the U16 European Championship Women on Wednesday, Hungary dismantled Italy with a strong fourth-quarter display. Now that a first medal in 37 years at this level is the prize, can they repeat the feat?
Hungary have to bounce back quickly after their heartbreaking semi-final loss to Spain. Their size caused Italy significant problems just four days ago, but Italy learned lessons from that defeat to take down Russia in the quarter-final, earning a shot at a medal.
And Italy themselves will be desperate to rebound from a disappointing semi-final against the Czech Republic and earn their third consecutive medal after silver in 2012 and bronze the year before.
Hungary's starting frontcourt of Virag Kiss and Eniko Kuttor have troubled teams all tournament, grabbing 25 rebounds between them in the second round match between the team.
Spain were able to slow down Kiss and Kuttor in the semi-final, and Italian coach Giovanni Lucchesi has started four six-footers in the last two games in an effort to counteract the size of his team's opponents. Hungary have been one of the tournament's best rebounding teams, so the performances of Lucrezia Costa and young Lorela Cubaj are likely to be crucial to Italy's success.
For Hungary then, the crucial factor may be how star guard Debora Dubei recovers after missing a potential game-winning shot in the semi-final. Dubei has been fantastic throughout the tournament, and every good player needs to go through the experience of missing a game-winner - but such an experience can weigh heavily on a young mind, especially with silver and gold medals within touching distance.
Italy will be looking for star forward Francesca Pan to recover after she suffered a difficult night in the semi-final against Czech Republic. Pan has averaged 13.1 points per game for the tournament and had a sensational game in the quarter-final, but she could only manage 3-of-14 shooting against the Czech team.
Hungary have had the tournament's meanest defense so far, allowing only 46.6 points per game, and they restricted Pan to just eight points on Wednesday. But if Pan catches fire, she has proven to be very difficult to stop.
Guards Mariella Santucci (11.3ppg) and Rachele Porcu both fouled out in the semi-final and they will also be keen to step up in the bronze medal game. Along with Pan and Giulia Ciavarella, they have shown throughout the tournament an ability to generate steals, although backcourt colleague Giulia Zecchin is not likely to be risked after strapping up her injured ankle to play in the semi-final.
The two countries share the same colours on their flag - red, white and green - but only one team will be able to watch their flag being raised in Albena on Sunday evening.