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Tall Blacks' precision three-point shooting leads to upset win over Italy in final World Cup warm-up match


The Tall Blacks have rounded out their World Cup preparations with a 88-82 win against world No.13 Italy in China this morning.

Corey Webster shoots against Italy in the Tall Blacks' World Cup warm-up match. Source: Getty

The Tall Blacks, ranked 38th, controlled the contest for most of the match, jumping out to an early lead thanks to some impressive outside shooting - including seven three-pointers in the first quarter alone.

They finished the match shooting 50 per cent from behind the arc, helped by the 18 assists they amassed throughout in comparison to just eight assists by the Italians.

Tall Blacks coach Paul Henare said he was delighted with his team's third match in three days.

"We have been battling hard for a few weeks now and the schedule we have put these guys through – I think this was our fifth game in seven days against quality opposition, and that has been tough. For our boys to be able to hang mentally tough and walk away with a win was really pleasing for them to get the reward and that winning feeling against a world class side."

Henare said the obvious improvement was in the shooting stats, with the open looks being converted tonight.

"We are a team that relies on three-point shooting, it is our job as a coaching staff to provide a system that gets them enough open looks. We felt like we had a few against Serbia last night but couldn’t knock them down, but the game is a lot easier when you keep the scoreboard ticking over from the three.

"To go 15 of 30 [from three-point range] speaks volumes for the guys hanging tough. Our bigs have shot the ball phenomenally well, Rob Loe has been very consistent, and Tohi Smith-Milner has come on superbly and been consistent from the three for us, but I am happy for all of our guys to knock those shots down."

Corey Webster once again led the Tall Blacks, scoring 21 points on a seven-of-16 shooting performance while adding six assists. Ethan Rusbatch and Isaac Fotu were the next highest Kiwi scorers with 11 points each.

Henare said he was pleased to see an all-round performance from captain Webster with the World Cup now looming.

"Corey is one that has seen his body take a hammering over these five games and he has put in a good body of work so for him to carry us down the stretch, make some big plays – not just his shot making but he had six assists and some of them were key.

"We trust him, we want to put him in situations where the ball is in his hands and we trust him to make the right decision."

The Tall Blacks are now head to Nanjing to put the finishing touches on their preparation and freshen up for their opening World Cup match against Brazil on September 1st.