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Nico Mannion leads Italy to win over Puerto Rico in Olympic qualifier

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Nico Mannion on Thursday tied a team-high with 21 points to lead Italy to a 90-83 victory over Puerto Rico in the Olympic qualifying tournament in Belgrade, Serbia.

Mannion converted on 6-of-11 shot attempts from the field, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range, in 24 minutes of work. He also went 6-of-10 from the free-throw line and added six assists and three rebounds in their debut game in the tournament.

Behind the play of Mannion, and others, Italy overcame a nine-point deficit in the second half to pull out the win. They outscored Puerto Rico by 13 points in the third quarter to pull ahead and take control the rest of the way for the win.

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With the win, Italy advances to the semifinal after their first contest was canceled after a player on Senegal tested positive for the coronavirus. They will now face the Dominican Republic on Saturday after advancing as the top team from Group B.

The winner of the finals on Sunday will claim one of four remaining spots in the Tokyo Olympics.

Preliminary play in basketball in the Olympics, which will feature 12 teams spread across three groups, will begin July 25 and run through Aug. 2. The quarterfinals will start on Aug. 3 and consist of the top two teams in each group from the preliminary phase.

The semifinals will take place on Aug. 5 with the gold and bronze medal games on Aug. 7.

Mannion, who was born in Tuscany, became the fourth-youngest Italian (17) to play with the national team in 2018 at the European qualifiers in the 2019 FIBA World Cup. He recorded nine points during his lone game in a loss to the Netherlands.

Certainly, Mannion came up huge for his country on Thursday as Italy looks to qualify for the Olympics for the first time since 2004 when they finished with a silver medal.

This post originally appeared on Rookie Wire! Follow us on Facebook!

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