Italbasket, Olympic dream fades: Lithuania wins 88 to 64


By John


ITALY: Spissu 2, Mannion 6, Abass, Tonut 6, Gallinari 15, Melli 10, Ricci 6, Bortolani, Caruso ne, Polonara 7, Pajola 4, Petrucelli 8. Coach: Pozzecco. LITHUANIA: Sedekerskis 7, Tubelis 2, Sabonis 6, Jokubaitis 5, Kuzminskas 14, Motiejunas 2, Dimsa 1, Grigonis 23, Lekavicius 6, Butkevicius 8, Sirvydis 9, Ulanovas 5. Coach: Maksvytis. REFEREES: Conde (Esp), Praksch (Hun), Boyer (Aus). NOTE: partials 21-25, 38-47, 53-68. Two-point shots: Ita 16/34, Lit 17/33. Three-pointers: Ita 6/21, Lit 12/30. Free throws: Ita 14/15, Lit 18/23. Rebounds: Ita 25 (Melli 4), Lit 41 (Sabonis, Butkevicius 8). Assists: Ita 20 ( Tonut 7), Lit 18 (Sabonis, Jokubaitis 4). Out for 5 fouls: none

The Olympic dream fades. The national basketball team’s journey towards the Paris 2024 Games ends in the semi-final against Lithuania (64-88). Italbasket will return to the court in November for the second qualifying window for EuroBasket 2025. The back to back against Iceland is scheduled (November 22 away and November 25 at home, with a venue yet to be defined). Coach Gianmarco Pozzecco said: “Congratulations to Lithuania. They played better than us. I am very proud of my players, who also tonight gave everything they had on the court. We tried until the end even if in the last 5 minutes we had no more energy. We did a good job on Sabonis but they shot better than us from three. The gap in rebounds is the emblem of the gap between us and them on a physical level. It’s a shame we didn’t have more time to prepare for the competition but that’s not an excuse. We gave everything we had”.
The music doesn’t change in the second half, opened by a 12-2 Lithuanian that puts 16 points of distance between the teams (40-59) at 25′. Gallinari and Mannion interrupt a 5-minute fast with a mini partial of 6-0 but it’s too little to think about coming back. Third fraction closed 53-68. In the last 10 minutes Italy puts everything they have on the field trying to limit the damage. Pajola’s basket is worth the temporary -13 (60-73) but Lithuania hammers again up to +20 with free throws by Jokubaitis (64-84). These are basically the end credits of the match, which runs away to 64-88. The journey of the Azzurri towards Paris 2024 therefore stops in the semifinal. Lithuania will play the final against the winner of Puerto Rico-Mexico.

The Captain’s Words

Captain Nik Melli: “Proud of my teammates. As always, this is a very complicated tournament and we tried to give our all from the first game. Lithuania deserved it tonight. We’re sorry we couldn’t move forward but we have no regrets for the effort we put in.” The approach is the right one. Polonara’s 5 points and Melli’s usual work give Lithuania a headache, but they quickly reorganize with an 11-0 interrupted by Achille’s dunk. Ricci closes the gap but Jokubaitis scores again from distance (16-22). Pippo’s impact from the bench is good: it’s his three-pointer for 21-25 that closes the first quarter. At the start of the second quarter, the Baltics sprint again and, thanks to the low shooting percentages of the Azzurri, they take a +10 lead (25-35) at the 14th minute. They cling to their opponents with tooth and nail, who are decidedly more physical in all areas of the court. The -2 (36-38) after Petrucelli’s triple is a masterpiece of resilience and tenacity. Despite the efforts, the gap at halftime is again 9 points (38-47). 21-14 the rebound data.

Coach Pozzecco’s pride

Great disappointment for the failure of the Italian men’s basketball team to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
“Congratulations to Lithuania, they played better than us but I am very proud of my players who gave everything they had on the field. We tried until the end even if in the last five minutes we had no more energy – commented the Italian coach Gianmarco Pozzecco -. The gap in rebounds is the emblem of the physical gap between us and them. It’s a shame we didn’t have more time to prepare for the competition but this is not an excuse”. The Italian captain Nicolò Melli added, “I am proud of my teammates, Lithuania deserved it and we are sorry we were unable to move forward but we have no regrets for the effort we put in”.
The Italian men’s basketball team will return to the parquet in the fall for the EuroBasket 2025 qualifying matches: on November 22, away to Iceland, on the 25th the return to Italy.