ATHENS, Greece -- Italy used incredible 3-point shooting to
advance to the gold medal men's basketball game for just the second
time at the Olympics.
Making more than 60 percent of its shots from beyond the arc,
Italy beat Lithuania 100-91 Friday night and will play Argentina
for the Olympic title. The only other time Italy played for the
gold was in 1980, when it lost to the Soviet Union.
Argentina, which beat the United States 89-81 in the other
semifinal, had never finished better than fourth, and that was in
the 1952 Games.
"This is a dream. I can't believe it," Italy's Nikola
Radulovic said. "I am afraid I'll wake up tomorrow and find out
it's not true. But it is."
So, it's two unlikely opponents meeting for the gold Saturday
night, while two teams that had been favorites will play for the
Lithuania (6-1) has won the last three bronzes, and it beat the
U.S. team 94-90 in the preliminary round. But Italy (5-2) and its
impressive shooting were too much for the Lithuanians.
Gianluca Basile scored 31 points for Italy, which finished
18-for-28 from 3-point range (64 percent) in a game that featured a
series of runs by both teams.
"We believed we would always be in a position to make a
comeback," Italy coach Carlo Recalcati said. "We had to stay on
the offensive and we did with our 3-point shots."
Lithuania trailed by 10 points entering the fourth quarter but
went on a 15-0 run to take a 78-73 lead with 6:34 to play.
Italy answered with a 12-0 run, with the last six points coming
on -- what else? -- 3-pointers by Giacomo Galanda and Basile, who was
7-for-11 from beyond the arc.
Galanda's 3 came with 2:21 to play and it was Italy's first
field goal of the fourth quarter. Lithuania couldn't come up with a
final run and Italy guaranteed itself at least a silver medal.
Italy beat Argentina 76-75 in the teams' final preliminary round
Gianmarco Pozzecco scored 17 points for Italy, while Galanda
Arvydas Macijauskas, who had 32 points in the quarterfinal win
over China, scored 26 for Lithuania, all but two in the first half
when each team held a double-figure lead. Saulius Stombergas added
12 points for Lithuania, all in a 2:42 span to open the fourth
Lithuania finished 15-for-35 (43 percent) from 3-point range.