The Tall Blacks rounded out their World Cup preparation with a superb victory over world number 13 ranked Italy, the New Zealanders firing up big time in their third game in three grueling days to upset the Europeans 88-82 in Anshan,China.
The team in black was in control throughout, establishing an early lead on some hot outside shooting that saw 7 three balls drop in the first quarter alone, and nine at halftime (from 16 attempts). The Italians simply had no answer to the quick ball movement and pace of the New Zealanders, who defied the schedule and the odds with one of the bigger wins in New Zealand basketball history.
Corey Webster led the team superbly, not only with his 21 points (seven of 16), but with six assists, a figure matched on the night only by his brother Tai. The support cast was deep, with Ethan Rusbatch continuing a superb tour with 11 points (three of five from deep), while Isaac Fotu did some damage in the paint in the fourth quarter, ending with 11 points and six rebounds, but everyone stepped up and made their shots tonight.
The Tall Blacks shot the three at 50% and had 18 assists compared to just eight for the Italians, underlining their philosophy of sharing the ball and looking for one more pass and an open look.
The Tall Blacks now head to Nanjing to put the finishing touches on their preparation and freshen up for the match against Brazil on 1 September, buoyed by a quality win against a quality Italian side with plenty of NBA and Euro League experience on their roster.