Italy put an end to a 25-year dry spell by defeating Puerto Rico with a score of 73-57, securing their place in the Quarter-Finals of the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
This marked Italy’s first appearance in the top eight since 1998, making it a perfect occasion to celebrate Luigi Datome’s 200th game with the national team.
Leading the scoring for Italy were Giampaolo Riccia and Stefano Tonut, each contributing 15 points, while two other players also reached double-digit figures. It’s important to note that Italy has never managed to secure a spot on the World Cup podium.
In addition, this victory extended Italy’s remarkable winning streak over Puerto Rico to 13-1, including their last 13 meetings, seven of which were in the World Cup. On the other hand, Puerto Rico had only managed to defeat Italy once, which occurred in the 1963 World Cup.
Regarding the game’s progress, Italy got off to a strong start, embarking on a 15-0 run to establish an 11-point lead. Despite Puerto Rico’s attempts to narrow the gap, Italy maintained a 30-20 advantage.
However, Puerto Rico made a comeback and briefly took the lead at 43-41. Italy then regained control with a 16-4 run, pushing their lead to 59-47 with 8 minutes remaining in the game. Puerto Rico struggled to mount a comeback from that point onward.
“We are happy,” Giampaolo Ricci said. “We knew that this game was crucial for us. We dreamt about being in the top eight of the World Cup, and we realized that. We are just following what the coaching staff is saying. We fight for 40 minutes.
“Puerto Rico is a great team. They have a lot of talent on offense. It’s a team win because we won the game on defense again. They only scored 57 points. That is a great point of emphasis of this game. We are happy and we keep dreaming.”
Check out Giampaolo Ricci’s TCL Player Of The Game highlights during the Italy and Puerto Rico game at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023: