A midseason thriller ended 2006 on a high note in Group C as Benetton outlasted visiting Winterthur FC Barcelona 68-67 in Treviso, Italy on Thursday. Marco Mordente's single free throw with 1.67 seconds on the clock won it for Benetton, whose record improved to 6-3, good for a hold on third place, while Barcelona fell to 7-2 and second place. Jaka Lakovic had hit 2 free throws to tie at 67-67 with 6 seconds left before Mordente drove to force the foul that let him win it at the line. He missed his second try so as to run out the clock. Nikos Zisis led the way for the winners with 21 points, while Mordente added 17 and Marcus Goree had 16 plus 11 boards. For Barcelona, Gianluca Basile lit it up with 19 points, 14 of them in the first 14 minutes, while Jaka Lakovic added 13 and Mario Kasun 10. The game was the comeback for Barcelona center Denis Marconato to his old home, his first time in Treviso as a visitors after having spent 12 years with Benetton. The game was preceded by a long standing ovation for Marconato, a fan favorite in his hometown.
Fran Vazquez started the show by scoring for Barcelona. A jumper from Goree kept the crowd cheering through a fastbreak dunk from Bryant Smith that was matched by a steal and reverse layup by Basile at 4-4. The extremely high tempo meant turnovers were numerous. Basile was hot shooting, but Zisis regained the lead for Benetton with a basket-plus-free throw. Back on Italian soil, there was no stopping Basile who scored, dished to Juan Carlos Navarro and dunked on the break for a 9-12 Barcelona lead after 8 minutes. A Mordente put-back was quickly erased by a triple from Lakovic, and then another three from Basile gave Barcelona an 11-18 margin. Matteo Soragna seized the moment at the end of the quarter by nailing a half-court buzzer-beater - his only points of the game - to make it 14-18 after 10 minutes.
Lyday agreed that the show must go on and fired in a three to start the second quarter by pulling Benetton within 17-18. The intensity went up again as the game got more physical as Basile's three-pointer off the glass gave Barcelona a five-point edge. Goree was on hand to net the jumper that kept Benetton in touch at 21-24. Otherwise, the hosts were struggling offensively while Basile and Lakovic used ball movement to draw fouls the helped boost the lead to 21-27. Goree responded with a dunk and a ferocious block, while Mordente popped a jumper to end a 5-0 Benetton blast at 26-27. Barcelona called timeout to talk it over, but afterwards, Mordente's acrobatic drive gave Benetton the lead, while Zizis and Goree boosted it to 32-27, much to the delight of the crowd. Roko-Len Ukic eventually stopped a three-minute Barcelona scoring drought. Zizis thought he had the last word of the half with a basket-plus-free throw, but Navarro saved a downtown bomb for the buzzer to make the score 37-34 at the break.
Goree got his name on the score sheet again right after halftime. Marconato's first bucket all night was followed by a three from Navarro that tied the game, 39-39. The game dropped into a low tempo that strangely suited Benetton as it regained the lead at 43-39 thanks to Mordente and Lyday. A jumper from Zizis was then met by a three from Lakovic, who continued with a free throw and an inside basket to put Barcelona ahead 45-46. Benetton needed the timeout now. Lakovic was making Lyday work a lot and commit fouls, but his misses at the free throw line let Benetton keep close. The score stalled in the last couple of minutes of the third period, which ended 45-47 and promised a very exciting finish.
Goree again broke the ice to start the fourth quarter, showing the way for Zizis to put Benetton in front, 49-47. Barcelona kept misfiring from the foul line, Lakovic this time missing both. Zizis made 2 himself, and when Mordente fired in a corner triple, it was 55-47 and Barcelona stopped the game to talk it over. The crowd was on its feet, but Barcelona was not done yet as Basile made the three that silenced the crowd, making it 58-52 with 6 minutes, 20 seconds left. Mario Kasun put back a rebound that Mordente matched with a baseline drive. Zizis was in the zone now, and connected again beyond the arc as Goree was the boss on defense. Still, a fastbreak and free throws from Kasun and Ukic reduced the gap to 4 points, 63-59. Everything remained to play for as the game entered the last 2:20. Kasun got Barcelona even closer with a lovely hook. Then, Spencer Nelson split a pair of free throws while Lakovic sank both of his for a one-point game. Goree quickly drilled a jumper to keep Barcelona from getting a shot at the lead as Benetton led 66-63 with 20 seconds left. A parade of fouls to test free-throw shooting skills started. Basile swished a pair, while Mordente made 1 of 2 with 11 seconds left. Next, Mordente fouled Lakovic, who coolly tied it up, 67-67. With the last possession, Zizis ran the court and passed to Mordente, who faked and drew a foul on Kasun with under 2 seconds left. Cheers from the crowd welcomed the go-ahead free throw, and then Mordente missed the second on purpose to run the clock out, sealing a major victory to close 2006 in Treviso.
Thursday, December 21, 2006