The Euroleague saw its second huge upset in as many nights on Thursday when the cagey veterans of Benetton Treviso invaded one of the toughest gyms on the continent in Barcelona and stole away with a 85-86 victory. The scoring star in for Benetton shooting guard Marcus Brown, whose 30 points included 15 in the third quarter that swayed the game in the favor of the visitors. The winning points came with almost two minutes left when Jorge Garbajosa, a Spaniard, blocked a three-point attempt by center Efthimios Rentzias of Barcelona and scored on a three-point fastbreak layup at the other end. But it was the headiness of veterans Ricardo Pittis and Marcelo Nicola down the stretch that decided it for Benetton. More unexpected, perhaps, was how Benetton easily outrebounded their bigger opponents (36-33). It all amounted to a series turned upside down, with group winner Barcelona down 0-1 in the three-game series with the necessity of winning at Treviso, a fourth-place group qualifier, when they meet again next week.
The battle was joined from the beginning, as Benetton began rebounding right after tipoff and grabbed an early 14-15 lead. The put them in the game and they stayed there, at 25-11 after a quarter. Navarro started the second quarter with his fourth basket, sparking Barcelona on an 11-4 run to a lead of 36-25. The pressure of the situation seemed to get to veteran Petar Naumoski as he missed a layup alone on a fastbreak. But soon Nicola was stepping outside for a pair of threes that highlighted a 12-4 Benetton run that cut the lead to 40-37. Barcelona hung on to lead 50-44 at halftime The third quarter was key one of the game, as Brown was unstoppable, hitting four three-pointers in this period to put his team ahead 67-68. One free throw from Navarro equalised (68-68) at the end.
Nicola opened the fourth quarter with a pair of free throws, then a pair of steals by Brown pushed his point total to 28 and Benetton's lead to 68-72. Pittis did the same to make up for an eight-second halfcourt violation and the lead held at 70-74. The lead would reach 8, at 72-80, with under five minutes left, before Efthimious Rentzias awoke Barcelona with a three-pointer followed by a blocked shot. Consecutive missed by Arturas Karnisovas were then redeemed by a Jasikevicius three-pointer from near halfcourt, cutting the lead to 80-78. But Nicola answered with a drive from the corner plus a free throw (78-83). But as quick as that, Jasikevicius drilled another three, and it was 81-83.
Amazingly enough, Rentzias had a three-pointer blocked by Jorge Garbajosa, who got a fastbreak layup and free throw at the other end to make it 81-86. It was awhile since anyone scored by ones or twos, but now Navarro fed Karnisovas underneath, and it was 83-86 with a minute left. Nicola missed a three-pointer and Benetton fouled twice before Navarro landed a runner with 28 second left. Barcelona trailed 85-86, but chose not to foul to get the ball back. Nicola shot at the end of the possession and with 4 seconds left. The rebound rolled around, but was controlled by Karnisovas, when a foul called on Pittis was ruled to have come just after the buzzer. As it turns out, that was only Benetton's third team foul, so Barcelona wasn't going to shoot free throws, anyway. Benetton's upset was complete.
"Now, we hope the homecourt advantage becomes a factor," Benetton center Marcelo Nicola said afterwards. "But we can't forget that Barcelona is a very experienced team in this kind of situations".
Indeed, coach Aito Garcia Reneses was already thinking confidently about the rest of the series. "We have to keep our hopes up, because I know we are able to defeat Benetton twice."
Thursday, February 1, 2001
Juan A. Casanova, Barcelona