Ends with 85-75: For Virtus Bologna, the point guard scores blue, 28. Coach Bozzico: “Strong and solid”
Gianmarco Buzzico’s 12 children play with the interest, desire and energy their father brings from the bench. Nico Mannion treats himself to a historic evening by beating his own record for points in the blue: 28, 4 more than the one he scored in Belgrade in the pre-Olympics triumph that sent Italy’s Mio Sacchetti to the Tokyo Games in 2021. This time the stakes aren’t that high. . For Italy, this will be a friendly match given that qualification to the World Cup in August has already been secured since November. Not to Ukraine, which is out of the game after the defeat. 23 assists and 40 rebounds against a bigger team are figures that give confidence to a young and inexperienced team. “For us it wasn’t a friendly game – says Buzecco – and my players showed it on the pitch by playing a solid, strong game. I’m proud of them, they repaid Livorno’s affection in the best way possible. The only contrasting note on such a beautiful evening is the injury he suffered Including Paul Pelega: He’s our captain, and I really hope it’s not too serious.”
A year after the conquest of Russia, the emotional level of the evening, already high in the stuffy and hot Livorno gymnasium, rose before the game when the teams embraced on the field, together, with the federal presidents Gianni Petrucci and Sasha Volkov, Olympic gold medalist with the USSR In 1988, and the first former Soviet player in the NBA and also transferred from Reggio Calabria in 1992-03. Then the Ukrainian players listen to the national anthem draped in the yellow and blue flag. New father Gianmarco Buzzico has teary eyes during Mameli’s anthem. Here, the 21-year-old played with Baker Sugar Richardson, who is coached by Dado Lombardi from Livorno, a memorable man whom the coach liked very much, likewise.
On the field, as often happens when wearing blue, Mannion unleashes the attack after a tiring start for both teams. The 21-year-old Virtus player scored 16, without errors, of the team’s 23 points in the first quarter with an assist (a great feign of passing the ball behind his back) and a steal. He signs 11-0 which makes Italy 10. Partially Ukraine responded with a score of 9-0 which rebalanced a lively and entertaining match. Captain Pelega comes out at the end of the first quarter with a sprained knee. Riccardo Visconti debuted with 7 points in less than three minutes in his first game with the senior national team: if it’s not a record, it’s close. On the other hand, Issouf Sanon, who was born in Donetsk into a family from Burkina Faso, leads his national team in defeating the Blue Guards quickly. Sanon cursed the blue defense last August in a World Cup qualifier and in the European Championship defeat in Milan in September. Another 10-2 run puts the Azzurri up by 8 in the third quarter and the Ukrainians react with a 9-0 lead. Poz also tries with a lower and more graceful quintet, with Ricci and Severini under the basket. The high proportions of the first half but not the energy is reduced especially in defence. And having struggled in offense up to that point, Marco Spiso let loose at the end of the third quarter and with 12 points in 5 minutes put Italy back in front in the decisive tie that also reached +16. Today the blue group leaves for Caceres, in Extremadura, where on Sunday they will face Spain’s Sergio Scarillo, who is in Bologna today for the Virtus match against Vitoria.
February 23 – 11.51pm
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