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Tiebreaker Times

2023 FIBA World Cup

FIBA: Latvia survives Italy’s furious rally, rises to battle for fifth


Coming off a heartbreaking loss against Germany, Latvia bounced back and advanced further to the classification round of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 with an 87-82 win over Italy, who were missing Simone Fontecchio, on Thursday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

Despite missing out on the semifinals, the Latvians continued to impress in their FIBA World Cup debut and secured a spot in the battle for fifth place, where they will face the winner of the Lithuania-Slovenia match on Saturday.

Andrejs Grazulis’ offensive efficiency was on full display as he scored a game-high 28 points, the highest for any Latvian player in a FIBA World Cup game. He also grabbed six rebounds during the contest.

The 30-year-old power forward converted 12 out of 13 shots, finishing the game with a 92-percent shooting percentage – the best field goal percentage for a player with 10 or more attempts in a FIBA game over the last 30 years.

Latvia fended off a late run from the Azzurri, with Stefano Tonut scoring a layup followed by a crucial three-pointer from Marco Spissu off an offensive rebound. This trimmed the Latvians’ seven-point advantage to just two, 84-82, with 41 seconds remaining.

“A good win despite the very short time we had to recover energy, both mentally and physically, after last night’s game with Germany,” said Latvia head coach Luca Banchi.

“It was nice to finally see the team perform as I was expecting. In the end, it was very tough and tight, but a good win that will give us the possibility to play in the final in the next game,” he added.

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Aigars Skele added 12 points and nine boards for the Latvians, while Arturs Zagars and Davis Bertans contributed 10 and nine points, respectively.

On the other hand, the Azzurri, missing their top scorer Simone Fontecchio due to illness, were led by veteran forward Luigi Datome with a team-high 20 points.

Nicolo Melli delivered 11 points, nine rebounds, and four assists, while Tonut had nine markers along with three assists and two steals. Spissu chipped in 10 points, seven assists, and three boards.

Italy will head to the classification round, where they will take on either Slovenia or Lithuania on Saturday.

The Scores:

Latvia 87 – Grazulis 28, Skele 12, Zagars 10, Bertans Dav. 9, Kurucs A 9, Strautins 7, Smits 6, Kurucs R. 4, Zoriks 2.

Italy 82 – Datome 20, Melli 11, Tonut 11, Spissu 10, Ricci 8, Procida 8, Pajola 5, Polonara 4, Spagnolo 4, Diouf 1, Severini 0.

Quarterscores: 18-26; 46-42; 67-60; 87-82

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