CAMPLI (Olympics) – Iran suffered an 84-67 loss to Italy on Tuesday – their second friendly defeat in as many days.
But the FIBA Asia champions hit back like a wounded lion after Monday’s 21-point setback and led for much of the game, something coach Rijko Toroman will be able to build on in the coming days and weeks as he prepares Iran for the Beijing Games.
Iran jumped out to a 28-18 lead late in the first quarter with the Italians struggling to contain center Hamed Ehadadi, who scored many of his 14 points in the game in a basic pick-and-roll offense.
The visitors still led 46-41 at half-time, but the Azzurri emerged from the changing rooms with a far more aggressive defense and seized a 64-58 advantage by the end of the third quarter.
An 8-1 run late in the fourth left the Iranians trailing 78-61 and they weren’t able to recover.
Nikkhah Bahrami had 19 points to lead Iran.
Iran will play in Group A at the Beijing Games against Argentina, Australia, Lithuania, Russia and one of the three teams that comes out of July’s FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Athens.
Italy, the silver-medal winners at the 2004 Olympics, did not qualify for this year’s competition.
They will instead play in EuroBasket Division A against Serbia, Hungary, Finland and Bulgaria and attempt to reach next year’s FIBA Europe Championship in Poland.