Italy makes 60 percent of its 3s

Updated: August 27, 2004, 6:51 PM ET
Associated Press

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 bronze medal.

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 game.

Gianmarco Pozzecco scored 17 points for Italy, while Galanda added 16.

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 quarter.

Lithuania finished 15-for-35 (43 percent) from 3-point range.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press