Italy edge out Croatia in thriller to reach Semi-Finals
TURIN (2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments) - Italy used a 9-0 run in the third quarter to take the lead and never relinquish it on the way to a 67-60 win over Croatia which saw the hosts of the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Turin book their place in Friday's Semi-Finals.
Turning Point: With the score tied at 35 at halftime, Croatia looked to be the more aggressive team early in the second half and held a 43-42 edge with 4 minutes left to play in the third period. That is when Italy made their move, running off nine unanswered points, capped off by a Daniel Hackett three-pointer that saw them pull away 51-43. They headed into the fourth quarter with a 54-47 advantage. The Croats got within three on a number of occasions in the final frame but a scoring drought that lasted more than three minutes down the stretch ultimately cost them dearly.
Stats Don't Lie: This game lived up to its status of top-billing in the Group Phase. There was very little between the two teams. This was best reflected in the fact that the score was tied 10 times and there were 10 lead changes. It all came down to the wire in the final minutes.
Game Hero: Hackett stepped up and knocked down a three-point basket that turned the tide in Italy's favour for good. As well as finishing with 12 points, the guard also grabbed 8 rebounds. Danilo Gallinari deserves a special mention as he scored four crucial points in the final minute of the game to put the game well and truly out of Croatia's reach.
The Bottom Line: Italy will head into the Semi-Finals with a 2-0 mark and feeling a lot more satisfied with their performance against Croatia than the one against Tunisia on Monday. Croatia have to put this game behind them to focus on a must-win situation against the Tunisians on Wednesday if they are to stand any chance of returning to the Olympics for the first time since 2008.