The wonders never cease in Group A! On a night when every game in the group ended dramatically, Benetton Treviso was not going to be outdone on its visit to Unicaja Malaga. Down 5 with a minute to go, Benetton nailed a pair of three-pointers down the stretch to steal a 67-68 before a stunned crowd of 8,500 at Martin Carpena Palace in Spain. It marked the first time in three years that a European visiter had beaten Malaga in its own gym and it could not have been more miraculous. The authors of the fateful three-pointers in the final minute were forwards Marcelo Nicola and Jorge Garbajosa, whose outside accuracy has given Benetton an extra dimension all season. The game's leading scorer, Moustapha Sonko of Malaga, could not connect on his final attempt to try to undo the outcome. The victory gives Benetton the inside track in this wild group with a 6-2 record in first place. The loss drops Unicaja into a fourth-place tie with Efes Pilsen at 4-4. Sonko's game-high 14 points illustrate the defensive battle that it was. Denis Marconato led Benetton with 13 points, while Tyus Edney and Bostjan Nachbar added 11 each.
Benetton Treviso came out on fire in the first period and thanks to an excellent shooting percentage and a soft Malaga defense earned a huge advantage, 4-19, after an 0-10 run. A blocked shot of Sonko on a Pittis lay-up woke up the Spaniards and began their long road back. Still, the first period finished with a nine-points of advantage for the team from Treviso, 14-23. The second period started with many mistakes and confusion on offense for the visitors. Benetton threw up mostly three-pointers while Unicaja edged backk close, to 23-25, with a pull-up jumper by Paco Vazquez. It seemed that the basket was locked for Benetton until Bostjan Nachbar connected on a a long-distance shot from a Chikalkin assist to break the spell. Gurovic tied it 31-31 from the charity stripe, but now the defenses ere playing better and the hometeam took the lead with Moustapha Sonko's basket at 33-31. That left it to Benetton big man Alan Tomidy to end the half appropriately, scoring on a mid-range jumper off penetration by Edney to leave the scoreboard tied, 36-36, at the half.
The third period started with the hands of Nachbar on the game, making baskets, assist and rebounds, until Benetton had a 40-45 lead. The game was raw and there were constant battles in the paint. It wasn¿t easy take a shot close to the rim and the players struggled for long-distance solutions. A jumper of Danya Abrams and two free throws posted by Frederic Weis after grabbing an offensive board gave to the team of Andalusia a one-point advantage, 53-52, at the buzzer of the third period. Sonko and Abrams combined on a 5-0 run to give Malaga a better handle on the game. Benetton couldn't find decent shots against the high-pressure Unicaja defense. Benetton coach Mike D'Antoni a four-guard lineup, but when Weis slammed in an offensive rebound, the home team led 61-53. Nicola was back on the floor, but that didn't change the fact that Benetton couldn't get off a clean shot. With Weis on the bench with four fouls, Denis Marconato grabbed two offensive boards in a row to put Benetton closer, 65-62,with less than three minutes on the clock. The Malaga lead was at 67-62, however, when Nicola made the first three of the final minute. He then blocked a Sonko layup attempt that led to Garbajosa's game-winning three, as Edney forced an off-balance shot by Sonko at the finish.
Wednesday, December 12, 2001