MANILA, Philippines—A motivated Dominican Republic took care of business and trounced Group A favorite Italy, 87-82, in the 2023 Fiba World Cup at Araneta Coliseum on Sunday.
The Dominicans flipped the switch in the third quarter after a subpar first half to pull away when it mattered most, keeping their record unblemished after two games. Italy, meanwhile, dropped to 1-1.
Karl-Anthony Towns said coach Nèstor Garcia’s motivating words at the intermission lit a fire under the team.
“We played with a lot of fight and we got the job done. [This is a] super nice way to get the win. [I’m] super happy for us. Our country’s been yearning for these wins and I’m glad that we’re able to get them,” said Towns.
“He (Garcia) believes in us. All he told us in the back was, ‘I love you, I know you guys will find a way,’ so we found a way [to win] and found a way to reciprocate his love.”
IT’S THAT DOMINICANO LOVE. ❤️🇩🇴
— INQUIRER Sports (@INQUIRERSports) August 27, 2023
The Minnesota star, who finished with a double-double of 24 points and 11 rebounds, got some more love for his coach as Garcia embraced Towns at the mixed zone area.
“Karlo! Karlo!” screamed an ecstatic Garcia as he ran towards Towns.
Dominican Republic trailed by one after two quarters, 38-39, before opening the third frame with a 19-6 run which included three-point bombs from Andres Feliz and Victor Liz to take a 57-45 advantage.
The Dominicans rode that momentum until the payoff period but the Italians managed to keep it close in the clutch to trail by just three, 82-85.
Free throws by Lester Quiñones, however, shut the door for good with 16.7 seconds to go in the game.
The Dominicans are riding on high momentum after having defeated Gilas Pilipinas in Bocaue two days ago in the tournament’s opener, 87-81.
Andres Feliz waxed hot for the Dominican Republic as he scored 24 as well, built on seven made three-pointers. Jean Montero was also instrumental for the Dominicans, tallying 12 points and nine assists in the win.
Marco Spissu top scored for Italy with 17 markers while Utah Jazz cager Simone Fontecchio scored 13 to his name in a losing effort.
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