Benetton Basket took a key step forwards to reach the Eurocup Quarterfinals by downing Lokomotiv-Kuban 87-76 in Treviso, Italy in Last 16 Group L on Tuesday. Benetton ties with two-time Eurocup champion Lietuvos Rytas for first place at 3-1 and will get to the next round if it beats Alba in Game 5 or if L. Rytas downs Loko. As such, Lokomotiv is in a tough position but will greatly improve its chances if it beats L. Rytas on the road. Jeff Viggiano paced the winners with 17 points. Sani Becirovic and Jobey Thomas each added 13 for Benetton. Ali Traore led Loko with 26 points on 11-of-16 two-pointers and 9 rebounds. Jay Massey added 14 while Sergey Bykov and Rod Blakney each had 12 for the guests. An 11-0 run allowed Benetton to get a 25-15 margin early in the second quarter. Blakney and Traore helped the guests to regain the lead, 40-42, right after thr break. A 12-1 run that Thomas capped with a three-pointer gave Benetton the lead for good, 52-43. Loko managed to get within 62-59 after 30 minutes but Andrea De Nicolao, Thomas and Vlad Moldoveanu shined in crunch time to keep Benetton out of trouble until the final buzzer.
Traore got Loko going with a layup but a three-pointer by Thomas gave Benetton a 3-2 lead. Massey and Viggiano traded three-pointers but a layup-plus-foul by Traore put the guests back ahead, 6-8. Viggiano scored again and Marcus Goree added a layup but a big triple by Blakney and a layup by K.C. Rivers restored a 10-13 Loko lead. Benjamin Ortner made free throws and Becirovic added a triple but a dunk by Traore provided another lead change, 14-15. It didn't last long, however, as Gino Cuccarolo and Gal Mekel combined for 9 consecutive points that allowed Benetton to get a 23-15 margin after 10 minutes. Free throws by Viggiano capped an 11-0 run and gave Benetton its first double-digit lead, 25-15. Lionel Chalmers hit foul shots but back-to-back baskets by Mekel and Moldoveanu boosted the hosts' lead to 29-17. Chalmers and Massey combined for all points in a 6-0 run that gave Loko some fresh air at 29-23. Ortner and Viggiano stepped up with consecutive baskets and even when Blakney struck from downtown, Ortner dunked it for a 35-26 score. A layup-plus-foul by Bykov and back-to-back triples by Blakney and Massey made Loko regain the lead, 35-37, after an 0-8 run. A jumper by Goree and a three-pointer by Thomas allowed Benetton to get a 40-38 margin at halftime.
Back-to-back baskets by Traore helped Loko to get a 40-42 lead right after the break. Viggiano stepped up with a three-pointer and a layup by Thomas gave Benetton a 45-42 edge. A dunk by Goree ignited a 7-0 run highlighted by Thomas' third triple, enough for the hosts to regain a 52-43 lead. Traore scored around the basket and Massey bettered that with a three-point play for a 53-48 Loko deficit. Traore stayed unstoppable in the paint and free throws by Bykov made it a one-point game, 53-52. Becirovic hit foul shots and Cuccarolo erased Traore's layup with a put-back basket, good for a 57-54 Benetton edge. Viggiano downed a three-pointer and Becirovic added foul shots but Bykov and Traore kept Loko within 62-59 after 30 minutes. Becirovic struck from downtown early in the fourth quarter and even when Massey hit free throws, Ortner gave the hosts a 67-61 edge. Rivers tried to change things with a layup but De Nicolao shined with a three-point play and a layup by Thomas boosted the hosts' margin to 72-63 with 6 minutes left. Blakney and Traore kept trying but three-pointer by De Nicolao and Moldoveanu sealed the outcome, 78-68, with 4 minutes to go. An unstoppable Traore managed to bring Loko within 82-76 but it was already too little, too late for the guests.
Tuesday, February 7, 2012