Great Britain's senior women's team produced an improved performance to complete a second successive win over Italy, 60-48 in Rome this evening.
Clean sweep for GB as they claim back to back wins in Italy
Once again for the second time in as many days, Temi Fagbenle was the leading scorer with a game-high 20 points - the only player to reach double figures in the game. Stef Collins contributed nine points and seven rebounds, with Azania Stewart also winning seven rebounds - three of them from inside the opposition's paint.
Despite having won the first game 59-51 just a day earlier, the side led by Head Coach Peter Buckle had begun Saturday's encounter slowly but the same starting lineup, responded well in in game two. Azania Stewart opened the scoring for the visitors and GB were 12-3 up with 2:09 remaining in the first quarter. With solid defensive play, they held the Italians to just 11 points in the opening quarter which ended on a scoreline of 20-11.
GB dominated the second quarter after a scoring burst which saw them net 14 unanswered points in the first four and a half minutes of the period. Good defense kept the Italians largely at bay and set up a 41-22 half time lead for the visitors. Fagbenle - newly arrived in camp from her studies at Harvard - kept the points coming with 16 first-half points and six rebounds.
Italy coach Roberto Ricchini may have had some strong words for his side at the break and Italy came out more focused than GB obviously keen to adjust the 19 point deficit.
GB faltered somewhat in the third quarter, losing the essence of their first half effort and lessons from Saturday but they still maintained a healthy advantage. Coach Buckle again rotated his bench and gave everyone game time. A fourteen point advantage was all that the visitors deserved by the third quarter's end, 50-36.
GB would maintain that dominance throughout the final ten minutes. For the vast majority of the final quarter, they sustained a double-digit lead over their hosts and a 60-48 final score was only a reflection of just how well they had played.
In addition to some fine individual performances, two other aspects will have pleased Coach Buckle - the British tenacity and organisation in defense and an impressive 88% success rate from the line.
Next up for the GB team are two back-to-back games behind closed doors in Worcester against Germany on Saturday May 24th and Sunday May 25th.
GB's Temi Fagbenle told gbbasketball.com, "Each and everyone of us has a real connection on court. No one would have expected that this early, especially from girls who haven't played together at all. It is a real surprise to see just how well we have gelled but it's a credit to the coaching staff and everyone involved."
The Great Britain senior women will appear at a third successive EuroBasket Women Final Round next summer and that makes for a very important 2014-15 club and college season for those candidates wanting to be on the plane to Hungary and Romania.
We caught up for a Q & A session with point guard Luke Nelson as he embarks on his second season with University of California, Irvine and having helped the under-20 team to their highest ever finish this past summer.