Tau Ceramica swept into the Top 16 and put on an exhibition for its fans Wednesday night by defeating Buducnost Podgorica 103-86 behind another huge performance from forward Andres Nocioni. The game was balanced until midway through the second quarter, when Nocioni and Laurent Foirest pulled their team away despite its many injury problems. Nocioni led all scorers with 32 points, making 11 of 14 two-point shots and pulling 9 rebounds. Foirest hit 5 of 6 three-pointers for 21 points, which newcomer Lewis Sims matched, and Jose Calderon posted 17 more. For Buducnost, subpar contributions from its big men in the early going proved too much of a handicap for the young Yugoslav team to overcome. Dejan Milojevic and Aleksandar Pavlovic led the visitors with 21 points each, John Brown added 16 and Cabarkapa 10. By improving its record to 8-3, Tau continues to share first place in Group B with Panathinaikos, while Buducnost drops to 2-9 to remain last in the group.
The game started balanced, with Buducnost pushing from behind thanks to Pavlovic, but Tau, despite the major absences of Luis Scola, Rashard Griffith and Leandro Palladino, managed to stay ahead at 18-16 in minute 6. Foirest was very active on both ends and a fast steal that allowed a quick fastbreak of the hosts made it 20-16. Nocioni and Sims were carrying the scoring load of their team to 22-21 with 1 minute to go. Cabarkapa tried to make up some points in the paint for Buducnost, but the hosts managed to build a five-point lead to end the first quarter, 27-22.
At the beginning of the second quarter Buducnost reacted thanks to its young star, Cabarkapa, who put his team ahead 35-36 with two straight fastbreaks. The debut of Sims in the Euroleague with the Spanish team couldn't have been better, however, as 2 free throws put him at 13 points and put Tau ahead 42-36. Buducnost tried to fight back with a big dose of talent, but Foirest was on fire as a shot from downtown gave him 17 points. The hosts changed the pace of the game and started to run to increase the lead to 50-41. Milojevic fought under the rims but Nocioni and Foirest hardly missed any shots for the hosts. Buducnost relied on slow attacks trying to find the best option, but crashed into Tau's defense. The hosts, on the other hand, ran the ball smoothly to find the best options until Nocioni slammed for 55-47 on the buzzer of halftime.
Sims continued with his fine perfomance after intermission. He was the most aggressive man in Tau's offensive end during the first minutes of the third quarter. Brown had to leave the court due to his early fourth foul, and Buducnost didn't manage to balance that absence with Ivan Koljevic's penetrations. Most of the time, the guests ran too much, which provoked easy mistakes that were taken advantage of by Tau to pull away by 12 points, 61-49. The hosts played smart on both ends, and Nocioni simply wowed the fans with his impossible baskets. A couple of missed attacks by Buducnost were used by Tau to build a 19-point lead in minute 16. Brown was back to the court early to try to help his mates score, but Nocioni appeared again and again to frustrate Buducnost's hopes to cut the deficit. Tau's defense was stoking at full blast, and when the hosts didn't steal the ball, the 24 seconds of possession expired for the guests. At the same time, Tau managed to score almost every single offensive attempt to break the game open 82-57 after a Nocioni three. After 30 minutes, Tau had already taken the game home after a 29-10 partial score in the quarter for 86-57.
The last quarter was a formality, and coach Dusko Ivanovic gave some minutes to young players such as Edu Hernandez. Buducnost showed a shy reaction with a 2-8 run over a couple minutes, but Nocioni and Foirest were still around to keep their team safe. Another three by Nocioni for his 32nd point put 98-74 on the scoreboard. After that, Ivanovic sat him to a standing ovation from the fans. With Jerome Allen also on the bench, Tau decreased its offensive intensity, but despite the efforts of Brown and Cabrkapa, Buducnost never managed to threaten the hosts who led 101-78 with 2 minutes to go. Youngster Javi Buesa also stepped on court for Tau to enjoy his first minutes in the Euroleague as his team cruised for another win.
Wednesday, January 15, 2003
Igor Marin Ochoa, Vitoria