MANILA, Philippines — Italy will fill the first slate of the 2023 FIBA World Cup Final Round upon besting Puerto Rico, 73-57, in their second-round final match at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Sunday, Sept. 3.
In a must-win situation for the right to enter the tournament quarterfinals, Italy heavily relied on its collective attack and trademark shooting from distance. Giampaolo Ricci and Stefano Tonut carried the slack for Gil Azzurri with 15 markers each, while Simone Fontecchio recorded a 12-point, 12-board double-double in light of his second-half offense revival.
Locked at 43-all, Gil Azzuri bombed a strong 8-1 run over Los Gallos courtesy of both Luigi Datome and Simone Fontecchio’s scoring sparks, but Jordan Howard’s last-second heave from downtown pulled his nation for a temporary response to end the third frame with a 51-47 card.
Thanks to Datome, Fontecchio, and Giampaolo Ricci, the Italians immediately hit the trigger at the start of the fourth period, sprinting for a 12-3 run to cement a 13-point advantage with 6:06 on the clock, 63-50, which was capped off by Luca Severini’s two successful charity stripe shots.
Puerto Rico managed to trim Italy’s margin to single-digit via Howard’s floater and Isaiah Pineiro’s four foul shots, 65-57, with 2:51 remaining. But that would be their final score move as Fontecchio’s trey capped a sudden 8-0 blitz for Gil Azzuri to wrap up the weekend contest.
Tremont Waters willed Puerto Rico with 13 markers and nine dimes. Jordan Howard, for his part, contributed 11 points.
Italy will wait for the result of the Serbia-Dominican Republic match later to determine their top-two standing within Group I. As such, either the United States or Lithuania from Group J will be their opponent in the quarterfinal round.
Puerto Rico is set to go home with a still impressive 3-2 Group Phase finish to end their World Cup duties.