Benetton came out strong but still had to battle its way to a 95-82 win over visiting Zalgiris Kaunas in their Group C opener on Thursday night in Treviso, Italy. Spencer Nelson scored 26 points and Marcus Goree 20 for Benetton, which led by 13 after the first period. Zalgiris rallied to get within 5 late in the second, but Benetton still was in charge by 55-48 at halftime and never gave up control the rest of the way. Nikos Zisis had 16 points and 8 assists for the winners, while Terrel Lyday added 12 and Marco Mordente 10. Marko Popovic led Zalgiris with 21 points and 5 assists, Kirk Penney drilled 4 three-pointers on his way to 16 points. Tanoka Beard and Paulius Jankuna added 11 each and Hanno Mottola 10 for Zalgiris.
Lyday got his team going with a jumper, but Jonas Maciulis responded straight away inside. Then Popovic found his way through to Beard, good for a 4-2 Zalgiris lead. Goree got into the act with a three-pointer, a pair of defensive rebounds and a dunk. The game picked up pace with an alley-oop for Zalgiris and a basket from Maciulis. Goree was on fire and netted another triple tht Popovic matched to get Zalgiris back at 10-9. The show continued with a reverse layup from Zizis. Nelson scored off a Lyday feed, but Popovic kept his team alive. Beard silenced the crowd from the arc, but soon the Benetton defense started to take over, while its offense wouldn't miss from three-point range and kept pulling away, 26-17. Nelson was causing problems, making free throws and another bomb to bring the crowd to its feet at 31-19. Free throws by Beard and Zizis fixed the score at 33-20 after 10 minutes.
Despite Zalgiris starting the second quarter with a triple, Angelo Gigli thrilled the crowd with a spectacular two-hand jam. The 24-second cloack was a formality as the game kept flowing. Jankunas draw a foul on Mordente and made free throws as Benetton sought to calm the rhythm. Matthew Santangelo reassured the hosts with a three-pointer, but Mottola and friends. started to win the battle inside and got Zalgiris to within 6 points, 38-32. Benetton regrouped in a zone defense, while Lyday gave his team fresh air from downtown to make it 43-34. That spurred a Zalgiris timeout, but the threes kept flying for Benetton, including a desperation chuck from Nelson to beat the clock. Penney hit a jumper, but Zizis scored a couple to keep Benetton's 13-point advantage. By the time Gilgi dunked it off a Matteo Soragna feed the score was 53-41. Maciulis hit free throws and a triple down the stretch before Beard scored on a coast-to-coast run to get Zalgiris back within 55-48 at the half.
Benetton started the second half with a small lineup and got Maciulis in foul trouble straight away. Lyday then scored inside to make it 57-48. Goree added to that before Jankunas connected from three-point distance, but the unguardable Nelson did the same. Zisis scored in the traffic while Zalgiris seemed lost in attack. Zisis now drew a foul on the way to the basket, netting both free throws and extending the home lead to 15 points. Mordente and Zisis were taking their time running the Benetton offense now, but Zalgiris was showing no sign of giving up. Jankunas scored free throws and a basket before Goree made 2 spectacular blocks and drew a foul on offense, though missing the free throws. Penney netted a three-pointer to get Zalgiris within 8 points, but Zisis took all of those points back for Benetton from downtown, forcing a timeout by the visitors. Penney drilled his second from the arc in quick succession but Climamio reacted every time, until a splendid hook inside by Mordente locked up a 14-point advantage after 30 minutes, 75-61.
Mottola tried to spark Zalgiris with a triple to start the last quarter. Angelo Gigli took over inside for Benetton, however, with free throws and a dunk off a great assist by Nelson, who then drove to make it 81-67. Zalgiris answered with 5 consecutive points as Popovic trimmed the difference to single digits at 81-72. Benetton coach David Blatt called timeout, after which his team passed up open shots while trying to run the clock down. The patience paid off again with a triple by Nelson triple, good for an 84-72 score with 5 minutes left. Popovic shaved the lead with free throws and forced a turnover to cap another 0-5 spurt that made it 84-77. Zizis calmed Benetton with free throws and Goree scored to rebuild an 11-point Benetton advantage. Again, Zalgiris dropped the deficit, with Penney hitting from the corner to make it 88-80, but time was scarce. When Zizis converted free throws in the next-to-last minute, Benetton was secure. Zalgiris had no fuel left for full-court defense and Benetton cushioned the margin with a 95-82 final score to start the season.