France rallies thanks to 19 from Gobert, beats Italy to reach EuroBasket semifinals
BERLIN — France pulled off a wild rally at the end of regulation, then carried that momentum into a spot in the EuroBasket semifinals.
Thomas Heurtel scored 20 points, Rudy Gobert had 19 points and 14 rebounds, and France found a way to get past Italy 93-85 in a quarterfinal game on Wednesday.
France was down by seven with 1:59 left in regulation, and that was when it started on what became a 25-10 run to finish the contest.
It was France’s second consecutive fourth-quarter rally and overtime win, after needing the same formula to get past Turkey in the round of 16 on Saturday.
“I don’t really believe in luck,” Gobert said. “Tonight, we could have given up, once again, but we got the baskets we needed.”
Next up for France: either defending champion Slovenia, or Poland, on Friday for a berth in the title game. The Slovenia-Poland quarterfinal matchup was later Wednesday.
The other half of the semifinal bracket was set Tuesday: Germany will play Spain, also on Friday.
Gobert started the game-ending burst with a dunk to get his team within 75-70.
Italy had a chance to potentially seal the game with 16 seconds left, up by two, but Simone Fontecchio missed a pair of free throws. It was another eerie resemblance to Saturday, when Cedi Osman, with Turkey up by two, missed two free throws with 12.2 seconds left to extend France’s hopes.
Heurtel’s layup tied the game with 5.2 seconds left in regulation. France trailed only once in overtime, for just 23 seconds, and Evan Fournier’s floater with 3:29 left put his team ahead for good.
Fournier scored 17 for France, which got 15 from Guerschon Yabusele and 13 from Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot.
“Congratulations to France,” Italy coach Gianmarco Pozzecco said. “They never gave up.”
Fontecchio and Marco Spissu each had 21 points for Italy, which was seeking its first trip to the EuroBasket semifinals since winning bronze in 2003.
Luigi Datome scored 12 and Nicolo Melli added 10 for Italy, which trailed by as many as 11 in the early going but outscored France 31-18 in the third quarter and led by as many as eight early in the fourth.
“What can I say? Very painful, of course,” Datome said. “Very, very painful. But I’m so proud of my teammates.”