Okulaja: Germans On Right Path

27 August 2007

Ademola Okulaja believes Germany are heading in the right direction after his troops clinched a tight 66-65 victory over Russia.

The two sides went head to head on Saturday after winning their opening matches a day earlier, Russia dismantling Italy and Germany seeing off Portugal.

Backed by Okulaja and Dirk Nowitzki, who both finished with 17 points, the tournament hosts raced to an early 14-1 lead and were ahead 22-7 after the first quarter.

They took a 10-point advantage into the break (32 22) before Russia, down 49-28, started a late rally.

Their accuracy from three-point range helped them to come back and eventually tie the match at 65-65. A free-throw from Stefan Hamann then sealed Germany's win.

We do not want to be on the top of our game by now but still want to keep improving.
"This was a very important victory for us because we played against a strong side which had demolished Italy yesterday," coach Dirk Bauermann said.

And Okulaja added: "I am not sure whether we delivered an exclamation mark but it certainly is a good feeling.

"We do not want to be on the top of our game by now but still want to keep improving."

Germany center Patrick Femerling was honoured before the match for winning a record 182nd cap.

"Russia were a very uncomfortable opponent, which they proved in the second half," he said.

"But our defense won the game tonight."

In the second game of the day, Italy rebounded from their opening loss to Russia by defeating Portugal 79 60, with Andrea Bargnani returning following a precautionary break.

"His five minutes were planned this way. He needed to get his mind on the court," coach Carlo Recalcati said.

The youngster finished with four points, while Gianluca Basile and Stefano Mancinelli led all scorers with 18.

"It's not time to act triumphant, but we have won like a team who is going through a difficult period," the coach added.

"I was particularly happy with our approach to the game: Mancinelli did great in replacing (Angelo) Gigli immediately."

However, skipper Giacomo Galanda became the latest player to leave the squad due to injury. He broke his finger during Friday's match against Russia.

He will undergo further tests in Varese on Monday and a decision on his future will be taken then.

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