France tops Italy 84-75 to reach men’s basketball semifinals

Aug 2, 2021, 3:19 PM | Updated: Aug 3, 2021, 4:12 am

SAITAMA, Japan (AP) — Rudy Gobert scored 22 points, Evan Fournier had 21 and France advanced to the men’s basketball semifinals in the Olympics for the first time since 2000 by beating Italy 84-75 on Tuesday.

Thomas Heurtel made the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 2:18 remaining after Italy had erased a 14-point deficit and Gobert had a couple of late buckets to finish it out, including a spinning slam for the final basket.

The French will play Luka Doncic and Slovenia on Thursday in the semifinals.

Simone Fontecchio scored 23 points and Danilo Gallinari had 21 points and 10 rebounds for their Italians, who were in their first Olympics since winning the silver medal in 2004.

France was knocked out in the quarterfinals of the last two Olympics and hadn’t been further since reaching the gold-medal game in 2000.

But the French won bronze medals in the 2014 and 2019 Basketball World Cups and maybe this is finally the time for this group to break through on the Olympic stage.

The French, who beat the U.S. in their opener, have power inside with Gobert and fellow 7-footer Moustapha Fall, along with plenty of punch on the perimeter.

They used both to break open the game in the third quarter. Gobert scored on a lob and a dunk around a three-point play by Nicolas Batum in a 9-0 run that made it 56-46.

After a couple free throws by Fontecchio, Fournier and Batum made consecutive 3-pointers to extend the lead to 62-48 with 3:19 to remain in the period.

But Italy opened the fourth with a 12-2 burst, getting the final 10 of them from Fontecchio, to tie it at 66.

Italy scored the final five points of the first quarter and got the first basket of the second for a 27-20 lead. France came back with a 9-0 run that turned a six-point deficit into a 33-30 lead on Fall’s three-point play with 6:02 remaining in the half.

The teams went back and forth from there until Fournier made the last basket of the half for a 43-42 lead.


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