Tuesday's Eurobasket Qualification game between Italy and Finland was a do-or-die type of game for both teams, since loser of the game would practically be eliminated from the competition.
Finland struggled from early on, missing their first nine 3pt attempts and basically letting Italian big guys Angelo Gigli and Andrea Bargnani walk to the paint for open dunks. Italy was leading 4-15 before Finland began to maintain their defensive form.
Even though Finland came within two points in a couple of occasions, Italy extended their lead back to 9-12 points with Marco Belinelli shooting with high percentage early on, Andrea Bargnani schooling Finnish post defenders with old school spin moves and experienced players Giuseppe Poeta, Marco Mordente and Valerio Amoroso sinking their 3pt shots.
Six minutes before the end of the game Italy took a 60-73-lead behind Andrea Bargnani's three-pointer. Finland refused to go away, though. Petteri Koponen responded with a 3pt shot of his own and just a moment later, Italian point guard Matteo Soragna got heated in the midst of Finnish defense and was given a technical foul. Teemu Rannikko sank both of his free throws and after Finland regained the ball possession, Koponen opened Kimmo Muurinen for a dunk and one, narrowing Italian lead to 68-73 with five minutes to go.
After Belinelli's heavily contested jumper, both teams missed their a couple of next shots, but Hanno Möttölä ended the drought, sinking a jumper and bringing Finland back to competition. In the other end, Belinelli had an offensive foul and Shawn Huff netted a trey to bring Finland within two, 73-75. Italy's Luca Vitali missed a three-pointer in Italy's next possession and Petteri Koponen drove from coast to coast, drew a foul from Andrea Bargnani (fouled out) and tied the game with two free throws, 75-75, with 1:42 remaining.
Marco Belinelli hit another contested jumper to put Italy up by two, 75-77, with 1:24 to go. Finland had the chance to try three relatively open three point shots in the last minute, but Petteri Koponen missed once and Teemu Rannikko twice in the end. Marco Mordente caught the decisive rebound and Italy got to head to Helsinki-Vantaa Airport with a victory.
For Petteri Koponen, the night was clearly not one of his best. Petteri opened the game with two quick fouls, two missed shots and three turnovers in the first four minutes and couldn't get the offense going. Finland got back on track with Teemu Rannikko playing PG and Petteri sitting on the bench, but in the fourth quarter, Petteri played some inspired basketball, slowing down hot-shooting Belinelli and responding with five quick points, two assists and two steals in final six minutes. He took the loss and 7-point, 6-turnover night very heavily and was clearly upset when talking to the media after the game.
Hanno Möttölä scored 16 points for Finland in a steady performance while Teemu Rannikko had 11 points and 6 assists and Shawn Huff scored 12. Top scorer of the game was Marco Belinelli with 23 (fg 10/18). Andrea Bargnani finished with 21 and 8 despite playing only 24 minutes.
Italy and France meet each other in Pau, France this Friday in a must-win game for the Italians. Finland hosts France in Vantaa next Monday.
Highlights (from the coaches game tape) here
Finland - Italy 75-77 (10-17, 34-38, 55-63)
Finland: Hanno Möttölä 16/4, Shawn Huff 12/3, Teemu Rannikko 11/3/6 assists, Tuukka Kotti 9/4, Gerald Lee 8/3, Petteri Koponen 7/3/3 assists, Antti Nikkilä 6/2, Kimmo Muurinen 3/1, Petri Virtanen 3/0, Mikko Koivisto 0/1, Samuel Haanpää 0/0, Vesa Mäkäläinen.
Italy: Marco Belinelli 23/2, Andrea Bargnani 21/8, Angelo Gigli 10/6, Matteo Soragna 8/0, Marco Mordente 6/3, Giuseppe Poeta 5/1, Valerio Amoroso 3/2, Marco Cusin 1/3, Luca Vitali 0/3/5 assists, Jacopo Giachetti 0/3, Luigi da Tome 0/0.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Petteri Koponen Watch: I'll never eat pasta again, Italy wins edition
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