Italy end 25-year drought, beat Puerto Rico to reach first Quarters since 1998

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MANILA (Philippines) – Italy ended a quarter-century drought by beating Puerto Rico a 73-57 to reach the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Quarter-Finals – their first top-eight showing since 1998. What better way to celebrate Luigi Datome’s 200th game with the national team?  Giampaolo Riccia and Stefano Tonut paced four players in double figures with 15 points each for the Italians, who have never finished on the World Cup podium. The win also extended Italy’s winning streak over Puerto Rico to 13-1, including the last 13 encounters – seven of which came in the World Cup. Puerto Rico, whose last Quarter-Finals showing came in 2002, beat Italy only once – at the 1963 World Cup.

Italy had a 15-0 run early in the game for an 11-point lead. The Europeans were up 30-20 but Puerto Rico remained in touching distance and took the lead 43-41. Italy opened a bit of space again with a 16-4 spurt to move up 59-47 with 8 minutes to go. Puerto Rico could never get back into the game. Italy had a balanced effort and a number of players could have been picked for TCL Player of the Game, but the honor went to Giampaolo Ricci. The veteran came off the bench and scored 15 points – including two big three-pointers in Italy’s decisive run. Ricci also picked up 3 rebounds and 1 block.

Italy out-rebounded Puerto Rico 48-29 including 19 offensive rebounds that resulted in a 22-3 advantage in second chance points. The Europeans also held Puerto Rico to just 37 percent shooting from the floor and 23 percent from long range and bottled up Tremont Waters to 13 points on 5-of-14 shooting and forced him into 7 turnovers.         Italy fans have been waiting a quarter century and will finally play again in the Quarter-Finals of a World Cup – the first time since 1998. The Italians will face United States in the first knockout game. Puerto Rico head home having missed out on their first top-eight showing since 2002.

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