The Azzurri start strong, then drop in the central quarters: in the last fraction Melli, Mannion and Polonara drag Sacchetti’s team with a partial of 24-8 that is worth the qualification
L’Italy of basketball rejoices: in the last match of group B, the Azzurri beat 80-71 la Nigeria and qualify for the quarter-finals of the Tokyo 2020 tournament. Match with a fluctuating trend: great start of the Azzurri (also +15 in the first period), then the Nigerians dominate the central quarters. In the last period a partial of 24-8 with Melli (15), Mannion (14) and Polonara (13) on the shields, gives success to the Azzurri.
The Olympic dream of‘Italbasket’ continues: the national team led by coach Meo Sacchetti makes no mistake against Nigeria and, winning thanks to a spectacular last quarter, he gains access to the quarter-finals of the Five-circle tournament. The game would seem to be in the safe after a few minutes: when 2’22 ”from the end of the first fraction Nico Mannion signs the second of two free throws, the Azzurri are ahead 27-12 and the green-and-white national team, filled with American school players and coached by a former NBA coach like Mike Brown, seems totally out of the game. However, everything changes in the two central periods: they forcefully enter the game Chimezie Metu (22 points at the end) e Jordan Nwora (20), who especially from a distance do not forgive a defense that begins to suffer and in turn also affects the performance of the attack, so much so that the partial sum of the second and third period is 46-27 for Nigeria, which reaches the ‘last mini interval with great confidence and, above all, 7 points ahead of 56-63.
When all seems lost (for Italy there is also a Gallinari by only 3 points, conditioned by four fouls in three quarters) they think about roaring Nicolò Melli, Achille Polonara and Nico Mannion: the first, author of 15 points overall, puts his signature on overtaking in the middle of the period (65-64), the second collects a couple of fundamental offensive rebounds and closes at 13 points, while the young player of the Golden State Warriors seals the qualification with the free throws worth 14 personal points and, above all, the decisive draw in the final. In the 24-8 of the partial of the last period there are also the excellent performances of Simone Fontecchio (12 at the end for him) and Alessandro Pajola (4 points, as many assists and +8 plus-minus). The return to the Games after 17 years, therefore, continues to give Italian basketball satisfactions: the draw is now awaited to understand which opponent Italy will contend for a place in the semifinals.
ITALY-NIGERIA 80-71 (29-17, 11-22, 16-24, 24-8)
Italy: Often, Mannion 14, Tonut 10, Gallinari 3, Melli 15, Fontecchio 12, Tessitori 3, Ricci 6, Moraschini 0, Vitali 0, Polonara 13, Pajola 4.
Nigeria: Okpala 2, Agada 0, Udoh ne, Metu 22, Emegano 0, Oni 3, Okafor 14, Okogie 2, Vincent 3, Nwora 20, Nwamu 0, Achiwa 5.