Fiba World Cup: Italy’s Luigi Datome rediscovers touch, vows to ‘keep on shooting’ | Inquirer Sports

Fiba World Cup: Italy’s Luigi Datome rediscovers touch, vows to ‘keep on shooting’

/ 11:34 PM September 01, 2023

Italy's Luigi Datome in the Fiba World Cup second round.

Italy’s Luigi Datome in the Fiba World Cup second round. -MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines — Luigi Datome was thrilled over the timing of his return to form as he helped Italy upset Serbia, 78-76, in the Fiba World Cup 2023 second round on Friday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Simone Fontecchio unleashed 30 points on 11-of-15 shooting from the field and grabbed seven rebounds to lead the Azzurri’s comeback from a 16-point deficit in the third quarter.

But it was the veteran Datome, who conspired with the Utah Jazz forward to score 10 straight points that capped a 17-2 rally after starting the fourth with just a one-point deficit.

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Fontecchio then hit the clutch shots down the stretch to cap the Italians’ come-from-behind win and tie the Serbians with 3-1 record in Group I.

The 35-year-old forward struggled from the field in the first round, shooting only 31.4%. And he was relieved to find his shooting touch when it mattered the most as he scored 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting, including two treys.

“Finally! I was struggling but I kept on believing in myself and most importantly, my team and my coach believed in me. I went up and kept in shooting and finally today I saw it a couple of times,” said Datome, who made the most of his 13 minutes of playing time.

Gianmarco Pozzecco Italy Fiba world cup

Italy coach Gianmarco Pozzecco celebrates with his players after their comeback win over Serbia in the Fiba World Cup second round. -MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

The 6-foot-8 Datome, who will retire from basketball after the World Cup, vows to keep on shooting to help the Azzurri reach the final phase starting next week at Mall of Asia Arena.

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“I’m not that shooting bad in the World Cup but I don’t care. I will keep on shooting because I am a shooter. I’ve always been a shooter in my line and I will be in the next 10 days of my career,” he said.

The former NBA player, who is the lone remaining member of Italy’s 2019 World Cup team, was happy to contribute but winning every game matters most for him.

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“I’m very happy but when you win you’re happy regardless. Of course, if you can give a contribution, you’re a little bit happier but also if I shoot again 0-of-4 and we’re winning I will still be very happy. At this moment of my career, I care even more about the win,” he said.

“Great character and great mentality and great balance in ourselves. We kept believing even it wasn’t easy at all but we did it again.”

Fontecchio commended the leadership and contribution of Datome in their big win. The veteran Italian also lauded the game of the Utah Jazz player but he insisted that all 12 members are the faces of Italy.

“There are 12 faces. Of course, Simone is a key player and he had an incredible game tonight. A big player who comes up in the big moments, makes
big plays. Fantastic, it’s not the first time. I know Simone well and we’re glad that he’s on our team,” Datome said.

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Italy wraps up its second round on Sunday against Puerto Rico at 4 p.m.

TAGS: Fiba World Cup, Italy

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