Israel will look to improve on its shaky start to the 2023 FIBA Women’s EuroBasket when it takes on Italy on Friday (15:30 IDT / 8:30 EDT) at Tel Aviv’s Shlomo Group Arena – Drive In. It’s not going to get much easier for the blue & white, with the Italian team ranked 14th in the world (Israel is ranked 49th).
“I really don’t know, because it’s the first time we’re together [to discuss after the Belgium game],” Israel’s coach Sharon Drucker said of how the team would handle the Italy game after the blowout loss to Belgium. “We talked a little bit in the locker room now, I sad from my experience through championships and also the ladies here with the younger generation, every day of the tournament is a different day. Today is over, the most important thing is to recover well as much as we can because the game is less than 24 hours [after the Belgium loss]. Tomorrow [Friday against Italy] is another day and we have to come and leave everything on the floor, we are positive and optimistic.”
“We have to stay together on the court,” Eden Zipel, who was one of Israel’s better players against Belgium, said of the Italy game ahead. “I think we experienced some bad minutes today when I think we should’ve been one with each other, if it’s after losing a ball, going back to defense, we failed a little bit today [against Belgium]. I know what we’re made of, we have this togetherness and I know we’re going to bring it tomorrow.”
Italy, one of the favorites to go on to the next round of the tournament in Slovenia, had a shock loss to the Czech Republic in their first game, going down 61-58 after holding a 14-point lead in the third-quarter.
“It was not a good game for us, because to start the tournament well would be good. Now we need to focus on the next game,” Italian coach Lino Lardo said after the loss. “Now we must reset after losing the game and we know that Israel for us will be tough game.”
The rebounds will be a key to the game. While Israel, Italy beat the Czech Republic on the rebounds 38-31. One of the key players for Italy will be Olbis Andre, who finished yesterday with 10 points and 8 rebounds.
“I think we didn’t start the game in the right way,” Andre said of the loss to the Czech Republic. “We weren’t really focused on defense and they had really easy baskets. Then we got the lead in the third quarter, but we didn’t kill them. I think we made a lot of mistakes at the end and that’s why they won. We knew it would be a tough game and we have to work a lot for the next game.
“For sure, it’s going to be a tough game too,” Andre said of the game against Israel. “I think we have to maintain our aggressiveness on defense and try not to let them play their game. I think we can fix the mistakes [against the Czech Republic]. I think it was about emotions, first game of the tournament, and maybe we weren’t so focused – but I think we can fix that and be ready for the next game.”
“We will have to focus on this and some more aspects we need to improve for sure tomorrow,” Drucker said of the rebound challenge ahead. “We will show the players Italy and what is their strength, what is their system, and we’ll try to recover [from the loss to Belgium]. It’s a tough game and tomorrow [against Italy] is a new game. Rebounds is one of the parameters we have to improve.”
Another question will be whether one of Israel’s star young players, Lior Garzon, who plays at Oklahoma State University, will be able to return after a foot injury suffered during the practice game against Slovakia last month.
“We hope so,” Drucker said as to whether she would play against Italy. “We tried to give her a rest today [against Belgium]. We know she’ll feel better. It’s a day-by-day injury, it’s bad luck, but I think she’s recovered well and she wants it so much. So, if she will feel good, she’ll go.”
In Friday’s other Group B game, Belgium plays against the Czech Republic (12:15 IDT / 5:15 EDT). Later in the day, the Group A games will take place, with Greece taking on Latvia (18:15 IDT / 11:15 EDT) and Spain facing Montenegro (20:45 IDT / 13:45 EDT).