Italy carried the momentum of a late third quarter surge to boot out Puerto Rico, 73-57, and advance to the quarterfinals of the FIBA World Cup on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Team captain Luigi Datome ignited the Italians’ breakaway while Giampaolo Ricci poured 10 of his game-high 15 points in the payoff period to complete a sweep of the second round.
Italy’s victory sets up a collision course with either the United States or Lithuania in the knockout quarterfinals. The two unbeaten teams in Group J are still playing as of press time with the winner taking the top seed.
Datome’s timely trey with 2:35 left in the third quarter broke a 43-43 deadlock as the world No. 10 Italians closed the period with an 8-4 run.
Italy unleashed a 12-3 blast to start the fourth quarter to build a 63-50 lead with 5:43 left, just enough to cushion the Puerto Ricans’ anemic fightback.
Stefano Tonut fired 15 markers, Simone Fontecchio had a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds while Datome sank three triples on his way to 11 points for Italy.
Puerto Rico ended its campaign with three wins in five outings. Tremont Waters led the Puerto Ricans with 13 points and nine assists.
Over at Okinawa Arena in Japan, also-ran but Paris Olympic-bound Australia vented its ire on Georgia, 100-84, to end its second round campaign with a victory.
Patty Mills dropped 19 points, Dante Exum had 18 while Duop Reath and Josh Giddey posted 16 and 15 markers, respectively, for the Australians, who closed their World Cup run with two wins in five outings.
Goga Bitadze led the Georgians with 20 markers.