25 August, 2023
10 September
8 Paolo Banchero (USA)
Game Report
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USA defense stifles Italy and sends a strong message

MANILA (Philippines) - They missed the Semi-Finals in 2019, but the United States are once again a final four team, after cruising to a comfortable 100-63 win over Italy in the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila.


Coach Steve Kerr and his players now wait for the winner of the Germany v Latvia matchup in their part of the bracket. Italy will continue the event in the Classification Games 5-8.

Turning point: Lithuania defeated the USA thanks in large to their hot shooting start when they made their first nine three-pointers. USA decided to put more emphasis on stopping any kind of shooting, and their full court zone-press tortured Italy completely.

Coach Gianmarco Pozzecco could not get any kind of rhythm, and his men scored just 24 points in the first half. That was the second-lowest scoring first half by any team in the FIBA Basketball World Cup Quarter-Finals, surpassing only Turkey's 23-point half against Argentina in 2006.

The United States scored 46 points in that same interval, opening up a 22-point lead, more than enough to go on cruise control in the second half.

TCL Player of the Game: Mikal Bridges is known as an elite defensive player, but his offensive output has been impressive in Manila. This was his third straight game in double figures, and he had 14 points before the halftime break.

He counted to 24 on the day, done on 8-of-11 shooting, including 4-of-6 from deep, while grabbing 7 rebounds, getting 2 steals and a block in just 18 minutes of work.


Honorable mention: Tyrese Haliburton with six three-pointers and 18 points, just the third player with six or more threes in a Quarter-Finals game in World Cup history, joining Patty Mills (also 6, in 2019), and Larry Ayuso (7, in 2002).

Stats don't lie: Not a lot you can do against the USA if you're shooting 2-of-19 from beyond the arc in the first half. Italy finished the game at 7-of-38 from the three-point line.

Bottom line: The crowd in Manila had two smooth Quarter-Finals, without any drama. Coach Kerr will be happy with the load management, none of his players played more than 25 minutes in this game, and Cameron Johnson was the only one without a point scored.

For Italy, Simone Fontecchio was the only bright offensive spot, scoring 18 points on the night. They have already improved compared to their 10th place finish in 2019, but that 1978 edition (also in Manila) remains the last time they reached the top four.

They said: "Everybody in the world was thinking that we have no chance to win this game. There is one little animal that cannot fly, but it doesn't know it, so it flies. Bumblebee. We cannot fly, but we didn't know. And my players did it. That's amazing. They didn't deserve to play against the United States, because my players were first in their group. That's sport." - Gianmarco Pozzecco, Italy head coach

"You need to be a little bit lucky. I think we did everything in our group, we arrived here first... I'm really proud to be part of this group, this team. This time we deserved maybe a little bit better, a little bit more. We deserved to overcome Quarter-Finals, but you need to know how to win, how to lose. One more time, we need to learn how to lose. But we will be back next summer. We will try to qualify for the Olympics, and if not, we're gonna be there the next summer again, then the next summer again, then the next summer again." - Nicolo Melli, Italy

"We just set the tone, that's what we've been preaching. The bench has been doing a good job, but the starters have been letting us down with the slow starts. That was the whole thing, play with force for all 40, don't wait until it's too late. That's what we did, we played hungry." - Mikal Bridges, USA

"It was our best defensive effort of the tournament to this point, and that's what it's going to take to win two more games. You always wanna respond to a loss with a competitive effort, and the joy and competitiveness go hand in hand when you compete and play with that kind of force and energy." - Steve Kerr, USA head coach