Americans scrape past Euro foe; Italy nears knockout phase      | Inquirer Sports

Americans scrape past Euro foe; Italy nears knockout phase     

/ 05:15 AM September 02, 2023

Italy Fiba World Cup

Italy celebrates its comeback win over Serbia in the Fiba World Cup second round. -MARLO CUETO/

Anthony Edwards stood firm in his earlier pronouncement that second round opponents and perhaps even those left in contention, will still have to go through Team USA even after the Americans just survived their first big scare in their Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup redemption campaign.

“I knew we was gonna win from the get go,” Edwards said after Friday’s 85-73 win over Montenegro, a scoreline that didn’t reflect how the Americans were obviously befuddled by their physical foes that played a deliberate, slow game at the Mall of Asia Arena.


The US hiked its perfect slate to four games, perhaps assured of climbing into the knockout stage of the tournament. But the way it was given a hard time by the European side may serve as a blueprint on how the NBA-flavored lineup can be toppled despite its status as among, if not the top favorite here.


“They made a lot of shots and this guy right here is hard to stop so they made it tough for us,” Edwards said, pointing at Montenegro’s NBA center Nikola Vučević, who was standing near him amid a throng of reporters.

Team USA returns to action on Sunday against Lithuania, a team that could present a stiffer challenge with a talented roster powered by another seasoned NBA center in Jonas Valančiūnas and a talented guard in Rokas Jokubaitis, who could be in the world’s top league sometime in the future.

There was a bit of tension when coach Steve Kerr and point guard Tyrese Haliburton went to the podium for the customary postgame press conference. Team USA managing director Grant Hill, the former Detroit Pistons great, was even in the room listening to the sound bites and was looking a bit concerned.

“These games are gonna happen and we gonna get through them,” Kerr said.

But Edwards once again opted to let everyone know that he and Team USA have the situation in their hands.

“I don’t know what’s going on, but we will figure it out.”


Mighty comeback

While the Americans continue winning as expected, Italy stunned Serbia with a come-from-behind 78-76 win at Smart Araneta Coliseum to boost its chances of reaching the KO stages.

Simone Fontecchio unleashed 30 points and the Azzurri completed a rally from 16 points down in the third quarter.

“What can I say? We’re really happy, we’re really happy for the win. We did an amazing job today as a team especially in the third quarter, down 16, we didn’t give up, we never gave up,” Fontecchio said. “This just simply showed the heart of this team, the will of this team. We just don’t give up.”

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

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Serbia, on the other hand, tries to bounce back against Karl-Anthony Towns and the Dominican Republic Sunday at 8 p.m.

—With a report from Lance D. Agcaoili
TAGS: Fiba World Cup, Italy, Team USA

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