Dominicans upset Italians, show Gilas how Group A favorites can be beaten
Dominican Republic coach Nèstor Garcia told his charges something that helped produce the first true upset in the Fiba World Cup and exposed Italy as being vulnerable, after all.
“All he told us was ‘I love you, I know you guys will find a way,” Karl-Anthony Towns told reporters after leading the Dominicans to a mammoth 87-82 win over favored Italy that muddled up Group A play at Smart Araneta Coliseum Sunday night.
“So we found a way [to win] and found a way to reciprocate his love.”
That victory more or less gave Gilas Pilipinas’ coaching staff an idea of how the Italians, ranked 10th in the world and the prohibitive picks to top their group without a hitch, could be conquered. The Filipinos clash with Italy on Tuesday also at the fabled Big Dome.
And with the Filipinos having lost to the Dominicans by just six points, Italy coach Luigi Datome is now on his toes more than ever heading into the match with Gilas.
“A very important game to prepare [for]. Prepare to move forward to the second round,” Datome said, still showing shock at the reversal. “Prepare, but keep on believing in ourselves, of course, keep on trusting each other.
“And we know it’s gonna be hard [against Gilas] like it was hard today, like it was hard two days ago,” he went on. “Nothing different (in the mindset of my players).”
Datome, who got 17 points from Marco Spissu, knows exactly how he will deal with Gilas.
“Of course, the Philippines, like [the] Dominican Republic, they have a single great player and all around them there’s a good team,” Datome said, obviously referring to Jordan Clarkson. “So for sure, it’s very important to limit this player, you cannot stop them, they’re so good.”
Clarkson fouled out in the stretch against the Dominicans, precisely the break Towns and the rest of the team needed Friday.
They didn’t need that kind of a break against the Italians, only sheer will.
“We played with a lot of fight and we got the job done. [This is a] super nice way to get the win. [I’m] super happy for us” Towns, who scored 24 points and had 11 rebounds for his second straight double-double, said. “Our country’s been yearning for these wins and I’m glad that we’re able to get them.”
The Dominicans are now 2-0 counting an 87-81 win over Gilas Pilipinas Friday and the result of their second game sort of gives Filipino fans the belief that Italy can be beaten.
Left on the Dominicans’ schedule is a clash with Angola also on Tuesday.
Needing a win
The Filipinos lost to Black Antelopes, 80-70, virtually shutting the door on Gilas going into its clash with Italy.
Andres Feliz, who also hurt Gilas Friday, scattered 24 points to share team honors with Towns, who was all praise of their star guard.
“He was making shots. He was hot, super hot! He was hot in the first half, still hot in the second,” the big man said of Feliz, who also had eight assists and six rebounds and is now averaging 18 points a game. “
“I think we all did a great job contributing to this win. Andres was amazing tonight, super happy for him, super happy for our country,” Towns said. “Our country deserves this.”