As if none of its recent injuries had happened, Virtus registered its second Group C win in a row on Wednesday by defeating Real Madrid 91-82 at home in Bologna before a home crowd that saw their team refuse to feel sorry for itself. Both Virtus and Madrid are now 5-4, part of a four-way tie for second place with Ulker and Olympiacos. It was the first game for Virtus without starters Charlie Bell, to be sidelined for at least 4 months, and David Andersen, out for 10 days. To an initial 3-12 break by Madrid, Virtus responded with a 31-4 scoring run that lasted into the second quarter and changed the game for the duration. Real Madrid was unable to challenge for the lead the rest of the way, not the way Virtus made sure of the rebounds and got easy fastbreak baskets as a result. Virtus was led by Matjaz Smodis, who nailed 23 points to go with 5 rebounds. Derrick Dial followed with 18 points, Antoine Rigaudeau 17 and Alessandro Frosini 12. Real Madrid hung on to Alain Digbeu's 19 points (shooting 5 for 8 from beyond the arc), but besides him, only Alex Mumbru (14) and Damir Mulaomerovic (12) reached double digits in scoring.
Real Madrid surprised Virtus at the beginning, lining up 3-2 zone defence and alternating man - to - man to full court press. With Damir Mulaomerovic's drives inside Real took early big lead (3-12), with good moving of the ball at half court. Centers Dragan Tarlac and Derrick Alston gave inside contribution, while Virtus was suffering bad field goals (1 for 8, 25%) and 3 consecutive turnovers. Coach Tanjevic called a time out, and Virtus came off the time out with different attitude; led by Matjaz SModis and captain Antoine Rigaudeau, Virtus outscored Real Madrid who suffered heavy turnovers and set big 17-2 run with easy baskets on the break. Tanjevic gave room to Alessandro Frosini (due to Koturovic early injury) and Mladen Sekularac too, and Yugoslav player gave his contribution with a great dunk on the break. Virtus had 3 points lead with 20 seconds left; coach Imbroda double teamed Derrick Dial at halfcourt, but Virtus was well prepared and found Smodis for an open triple from the corner. Virtus took highest 6 points lead (20-16), which was reduced by a lay up at the buzzer by Dragan Tarlac (20-16).
Virtus went on with the incredible run in the second quarter, closing any way to the basket to guests for 6 minutes and 7 seconds in the second period. Hosts deepened their lead with outstanding 14-0 run (34-16) with many easy baskets. Real Madrid tried to press Virtus, but hosts' intensity was higher. The run went on, just stopped by a triple sank by Lucas Victoriano (34-19). Alex Mumbrù tried to keep his team into the game, but Virtus' rising tide was too much for guests, who were doubled in the score (42-21). Virtus had good moving of the ball, while Real Madrid suffered bad percentage and still heavy turnovers. A couple of turnovers and some fouls called to Sekularac allowed guests to reduce the gap by the end of the period (46-32 thanks to Victoriano), but Rigaudeau sank big jumper at the buzzer which fixed the score 48-32 after 20 minutes.
Real Madrid tried to come back with a run at the beginning of the third period (2-9, score was 50-41) with Tarlac and Lucio Angulo's baskets. Guests tried to play more aggressive than the first half forcing Virtus to make mistakes; hosts suffered a decrease of intensity and with Damir Mulaomerovic's triple Real Madrid reduced the gap to 8 (55-47). Antoine Rigaudeau took Virtus by the hand and really invented 8 points (5 consecutive) to re-establish the lead (63-51). With perimetral play with Alain Digbeu (who nailed three triples in the quarter) Real Madrid managed to stay into the game (68-60), but didn't lose the control of the game switching also to zone defense. Smodis gave back Virtus double digits lead at the buzzer with a 2 plus 1 play that fixed the score 71-60 after 30 minutes.
Real Madrid looked for Digbeu and Angulo to make the last assault of the game (two triples), but Virtus responded triple after triple with Scarone and Dial to keep the lead (77-66). Digbeu hit another three coming off the picks, but that was the last attempt (77-69): with great contribution by Alessandro Frosini Virtus set once again a key 9-0 exploiting excellent 6 for 6 shooting in the first minutes of the last quarter. That run closed the game (86-69), and when Real Madrid came back with almost two minutes to go with 10 points to make up it was too late for guests.
Wednesday, December 18, 2002