Israel picks up first win of U20’s 85-75 over Italy

Israel defeated Italy 85-75 in their second group game of the FIBA Under-20 European Championships. The Blue & White bounced back from a disappointing loss to Serbia on Saturday night to take a hard earned victory over the game Italians.

In what would be a tight back and forth game, Deni Avdija and Yam Madar took control of the final frame to lead Coach Ariel Beit Halachmi’s squad to win and a chance to take first place in the Group B when they tip off against Ukraine on Monday night. Avdija led the way for Israel with 17 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists, while Madar dropped 20 points, dished out 8 assists and pulled down 5 boards. Yotam Hanochi added 16 points and captain Yair Kravets chipped in with 12 points in the win. Guglielmo Caruso with 20 points and 11 rebounds and Gabriele Stefanini with 19 points led Italy.

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Italy took a slim 19-18 lead after ten minutes of action, however, they didn’t hold the advantage for long when Hanochi went off for 14 points in the second quarter and Israel grabbed a 48-34 lead at halftime.

Stefanini and Caruso stepped it up for Italy in the third quarter as the Blue & White’s lead was cut to 58-55 with ten minutes remaining in the contest. But Deni Avdija and Yam Madar both came through in the clutch to help Halachmi’s squad pick up their first win of the tournament 85-75 in front of the home crowd.

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1) WOW! What a game! So far Israel has played in a couple of fantastic contests with end to end action and terrific shooting as the host has certainly given the home crowd plenty of excitement and action. After shooting a dreadful 2/10 in the first quarter Yotam Hanochi drilled home 4/5 triples in the second frame to help the Blue & White go 7/8 from beyond the arc in the quarter and 13/30 overall for the game. In fact, Israel took only 27 2-pointers, 3 less than from 3. Quite amazing! Add to that 24/28 from the free throw line you’ve got one barn burner of a game.

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2) Israel’s bench came up with a big game as well, outscoring Italy 29-14 whereas against Serbia the Blue & White bench had a very rough go. Hanochi was unbelievable in the 2nd quarter while Eidan Alber and Amit Suss had important baskets and played crucial minutes as well. However, in a tournament that features one game after the next, some of the other bench crew will have to step up and take a little bit of pressure off of Avdija and Madar. Sure the pair combined for 67+ minutes and if it was up to them they would have each clocked 40 minutes a piece, but if Beit Halachmi keeps riding them they’ll eventually lose their legs. With a chance to finish in first place in the group with a win over Ukraine playing so many minutes in so many days may see the dynamic duo pay a steep price as the tourney then heads into the knockout rounds. Thankfully however there is an off day on Tuesday for the players and yes the media.

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3) Ukraine pulled off what looks to be on paper an upset with a 68-63 shocking victory over Serbia, the same team that didn’t seem to miss a shot against Israel less than 24 hours earlier. What went wrong for Serbia after they looked to be the class of the competition? Simple, they shot a brutal 3/26 from beyond the arc and Issuf Sanon scored 30 points in 34 minutes for Ukraine. Sanon who arrived in Israel just before Ukraine’s opening game on Saturday had quite a whirlwind of a trip that took roughly 20 hours after leaving the Washington Wizards NBA Summer League Team. The 44th pick in the 2018 draft was no less than spectacular and it will be very interesting to see how he fares on Monday versus Israel. “They surprised me,” said Beit Halachmi. “Tomorrow will be a new game and if we aren’t ready every day we could lose. We need to win tomorrow and we need to win here at home and yes, Ukraine are very dangerous.”

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They Said It…
Yam Madar – “Deni (Avdija) made some big stops for us. We need to prepare for tomorrow now it’s an important game. The fans gave such a special atmosphere and I hope they keep coming to support us.”

Yair Karvets – “We are focused on ourselves and want to win tomorrow.”

Deni Avdija – “We showed good character and we played as a team. We will see what we did wrong, but regardless, I’m proud of the team.”

More Avdija – “Yam (Madar) is very talented and has improved a lot lately. We all are playing together and our very best as a team. But we will need to adjust and make sure we win against Ukraine.”

Ariel Beit Halachmi – “I feel like we still aren’t playing our game yet. There are some players who haven’t got into the rhythm.”

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