|11 July 2013|
|Alessandra Formica and Italy are running the best defensive system in Turkey|
Defence wins games, and there is no team at the U20 European Championship in Samsun that knows that better than Italy.
After a dismal 24-point loss in their opening game, the Italians promoted themselves to medal contenders and now enter the quarter-finals on a five-game winning streak.
Everything Italy wants to accomplish in Samsun is coming from their stingy defence. Italy is one of four teams in the tournament to hold four of their six opponents to less than 50 points - a telling stat of how important defence is at the U20 tournament.
All four of those teams - Spain, Turkey and France being the others - have five or more wins, and the losses they picked up were against each other.
The defence of France ranks as the top in points allowed, but Italy is right up there, only allowing an average of 50.5 points-an-outing, even though they got slammed by France and have took their foot off the gas-pedal in their most recent game, against Germany.
However, it is the forced turnovers and steals department where no one can match Italy. They simply do not allow other teams to shoot, forcing so many turnovers that they allow their opponents to make the least number of field goal attempts in the tournament.
Italy have forced a staggering total of 142 turnovers through six games, an average of 23.6 per-encounter. The next team below, Turkey, has forced 20 less.
"Those 25 or 30 turnovers we create in a game are very important for us because we have problems in rebounding and scoring," admits Head Coach Antonino Molino, whose team forced 32 turnovers against Russia, 26 against Turkey, and 25 when they faced Sweden, all crucial games in the tournament so far.
"For us, our defence is our biggest weapon to win."
Italy lead the tournament in steals with 13.3, and all three of their point guards, the twin sisters Francesca and Caterina Dotto, as well as Ilaria Milazzo, are ranked Top 10 in steals.
"Our defence is very good and strong because the Dotto sisters put a lot of pressure on other teams' perimeter players," explains Molino.
What makes Italy's defence even more effective, however, is that all those steals and forced turnovers lead to many fast breaks and easy points.
When one watches Italy, it seems that they revolve around team motor Francesca Dotto, who is leading the tournament with 4.0 takeaways per game, and is often seen racing down the floor, finishing fast breaks with uncontested layups.
"We preached playing defence during the preparations for this event," explains Molino remembering the difficulties in this aspect as Francesca Dotto and Alessandra Formica were with the senior national team at Eurobasket Women and only joined the squad two days before tip-off in Samsun.
"But, these two players are very intelligent and it was no problem to insert them into the group. They are very important for our success," says Molino laughing:
"I expected us to play good defence, but maybe not this good. But, well, that is fine with me."