Karl-Anthony Towns put on another scoring display Sunday.
Still, it was the hot hands of Andres Feliz who made it all happen for the Dominican Republic in their 87-82 stunner over world No. 10 Italy in the FIBA World Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The victory—their second straight—earned the Dominicans a slot in the next round while the loss put the Italians in a must-win game on Tuesday against the survivor of the Gilas Pilipinas vs Angola duel that was being played at press time.
The Italians had beaten Angola during the opener, 81-67, while the Dominicans carved out an 87-81 conquest of the host also on the same day.
After a strong start, Italy saw its fortunes diminish when head coach Gianmarco Pozzecco was whistled for a second bench technical foul at the 2:20 mark of the second quarter after the team had already incurred one earlier.
Pozzecco’s gesture of removing his coat earned him the fatal T.
With Italy starting to crumble, Towns, the All-Star center of the Minnesota Timberwolves, and company began to make their move.
It was the 6-feet-2 Feliz, who played in the Spanish league, was the man of the moment, burying seven of nine from downtown.
“He was making shots, he’s hot,” said Towns on taking the backseat offensively to Feliz. “He was super-hot in the first half and still hot in the second. I think we did a great job contributing and Andres was amazing tonight. I’m super happy for him and super happy for our country,” added Towns, who wound up with 24 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks.
On the strength of Feliz’s connections from afar, the world No. 23 Dominicans hit 16-of-39 shots from beyond the arc for a steady 41% shooting.
The Italians came into the tournament with seven straight wins during their friendlies in Europe and China.
Among the top teams Italy beat before arriving in Manila include Serbia, Greece and Brazil.