|Tommaso Laquintana was on fire in the first half, making 8-of-10 from the field|
Defending champions Italy came up with a masterful performance and breezed past the Czech Republic 84-60 in the opening encounter for both teams in Group C of the U20 European Championship on Crete.
Turning Point: Italy went on a 5-0 mini-run and claimed a 13-8 lead with 3:44 left in the first quarter. The Czech head coach Miroslav Marko sensed the storm coming and called for a time-out to slow down the Italians, but when play resumed the Azzurri delivered a three-minute long seminar in full-court press and used a 14-4 blast to claim their first 15-point lead. Italy continued with similar intensity and the same conviction to their game-plan for the initial stretch of the second quarter to lead by as many as 18 points before half-time and effectively put the game beyond the reach of the Czechs.
Game Hero: Even when you re-gain possession easily, you still need to make your shots on the other end and Tommaso Laquintana was the one to press this point to his Italy team-mates when the Azzurri began to tighten their grip on proceedings. The point guard started off on 8-for-8 from two-point range and scored all of his 16 points in the first half.
Stats Don't Lie: Italy forced 26 Czech turnovers, 13 of which in the game-deciding first half, and scored 33 points off them. The Czechs on the other hand had to work hard on every possession to increase their tally as only 12 of their points came off Italian mistakes.
The Bottom Line: Coach Stefano Sacripanti's small-ball is back this year, as injuries have forced Italy to field a team with an average height of 1.95m. It is too early to say if it can produce the same triumphant results as last summer but Italy will certainly produce entertaining basketball and delight fans as they hassle for every ball and run in the open court at every half-chance they get. The Czech Republic on the other hand need to improve in most aspects ahead of their two next games in the group, against Turkey and Croatia.