Italy Dispatch Latvia, Confirm Return To Form
// 20 August 2010
If only they could have played like this from the start.
Italy's EuroBasket qualifying hopes still appear to rest on the additional qualifying round, but they are refusing to go quietly from Group A as they slammed Latvia 109-93 on Friday.
Three defeats in their opening five games virtually assured the top two places would be out of reach, but Italy have now at least found the sort of form that would earn them a ticket to Lithuania.
They were all over Latvia from the early stages, using a run late in the first quarter to build a 26-17 advantage.
The margin continued to grow and back-to-back baskets from Andrea Bargnani and Marco Belinelli late in the second quarter made it 46-31.
Tomas Ress nailed a three-pointer just before the buzzer as Italy went to the locker rooms with a 58-41 advantage.
The gap continued to hover around the 20-point mark until late in the third quarter, when Latvia found some inspiration and an 11-0 run, sparked by Ingus Bankevics' lay-up, brought them to within 10, 82-72.
But Italy responded, and a 9-0 run highlighted by Belinelli's three-pointer carried them clear again.
And those proved to be the last of Italy's worries as they cruised to victory.
Bargnani was the star of the show with 30 points and 13 rebounds
, while Belinelli added 19 points and Jacopo Giachetti had 18.
Marco Mordente also reached double figures with 10.
Bankevics and Kaspars Berzins each had 14 for Latvia, while Dairis Bertans made 13, Janis Strelnieks had 12 and Ronalds Zakis 11.