|14 August 2014|
EUROBASKET 2015 QR
|Luigi Datome is Italy's team captain |
Coach Simone Pianigiani and captain Luigi Datome have highlighted Italy's mentality and Alessandro Gentile's resolve as the reasons for their team's 65-63 win over Russia in Moscow on Wednesday.
"This important victory was obtained thanks to the great attitude and the maturity of the guys," Pianigiani told fip.it afterwards.
"We did well in holding our own against the physical Russian game, we put in a great effort to maintain Russia at a low score and at the same time we maintained confidence in ourselves even when our shooting percentages were far from promising."
Italy looked set to start their EuroBasket 2nd Qualfying Round Group G campaign with a loss, when they fell behind Russia 53-43 at the start of the fourth quarter.
"It was a very tense clash because for us it was the opening game and they were already playing with their backs at the wall," Datome commented in a video interview with fip.it in the wake of the big win.
"The first half finished 28-25, we have not scored as little as 25 points during one half all summer [in warm-up games]."
But, in the clutch, the Azzurri tightened the screws on defence to keep dominant Russia center Timofey Mozgov far from his zone of action and, on the other end of the floor, young Gentile took it up himself to come up with the necessary scores to reduce the gap and scored 13 points in the final seven minutes.
"Even when we fell behind by 10 points in the final frame we kept believing it was possible and Ale [Gentile] gave us that extra push, he came up with plays worthy of his big value," Datome said.
"He even came back to the floor after injuring his leg, I really want to thank him but I am not surprised by the impact he had, I am not surprised that he insisted on playing through the pain, because I know him by know."
With 2:16 left to the final buzzer, Gentile hit a triple from the top of the key to bring Italy ahead 58-56, but landed on the extended leg of Dmitry Sokolov and twisted his ankle.
He walked off to the bench but, to everyone's surprise, asked Pianigiani to return to the floor 30 seconds later, when Russia had levelled the scores at 58, and dished out an assist to Marco Cusin who converted a crucial and-one play.
"When we went down by 10, we all had to go the extra mile in order to keep up the fight," Pianigiani stated.
"That was the case with Ale, who clenched his teeth and asked to return for the decisive plays in the last minutes and finish off the job.
"That was the case with Cusin, who had been battling a physical problem all week and looked like he could not play up until Wednesday morning.
"We knew the importance of winning here (in Moscow) but we also knew that this was just one of four finals on the road to the EuroBasket and winning just one is not enough, Switzerland has already shown what a serious team they are."
Italy are playing host to Switzerland on Sunday in Cagliari, in a clash between the two teams that stand at 1-0 in the group right now.
"Obviously we expect an ebullient support in Cagliari, I am sure our public is warmer than the fans in Moscow," Datome said.
"But the important thing is that we maintain our consistency on defence and this attitude where everyone helps out everybody else.
"Because, as we saw in Moscow the shots on offence might not drop in, or you might miss a shot in the last second.
"If we maintain the same attitude, we might win or lose in the end, but we can compete against any team."