Italy broke a 25-year dry spell by defeating Puerto Rico with a score of 73-57, earning a spot in the Quarter-Finals of the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
This marked their first appearance in the top eight since 1998, and it was a perfect occasion to celebrate Luigi Datome’s 200th game with the national team.
Giampaolo Riccia and Stefano Tonut led the team with 15 points each, and two more players also reached double figures. Notably, Italy has never reached the podium in the history of the World Cup.
Additionally, this win extended Italy’s impressive winning streak against Puerto Rico to 13-1, including the last 13 meetings, seven of which took place in the World Cup. In contrast, Puerto Rico had only defeated Italy once, and that was way back in the 1963 World Cup.
In terms of the game’s flow, Italy had a strong start, going on a 15-0 run to establish an 11-point lead. Although Puerto Rico managed to close the gap, Italy maintained a 30-20 advantage.
However, Puerto Rico fought back and briefly took the lead at 43-41. Italy responded with a 16-4 run, expanding their lead to 59-47 with 8 minutes left in the game. From that point on, Puerto Rico struggled to make a comeback.
“Good feeling to be in the top eight in the world,” Italy forward Luigi Datome said. “It was not an easy group. And we knew it would not be an easy game. But we played good and deserved to win. We created a lot of good shots.
“The ball didn’t go in at the beginning but we kept shooting with confidence. The bigs kept us alive with a lot of offensive rebounds. At the end of the day I think we deserved the win.”
Watch the game highlights between Italy and Puerto Rico in the Second Round of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023: