Benetton turned a potential showdown into an easy home win as it exploded for a 75-63 home win against dangerous Tau Ceramica in a key Group C game on Wednesday in Treviso, Italy. The victory boosted Benetton to 6-5 and a share of second place with Panathinaikos and Ulker, as little as one victory away from qualification for the Top 16. Tau, meanwhile, dropped to 4-7 and now finds its own three-way tie, for fifth place and the last sure Top 16 berth from the group. Marcus Goree paced Benetton with 18 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 6 steals. Matteo Soragna added 13 points, all in the first half, while Paccelis Morlende and Massimo Bullleri had 11 each and Denis Marconato 12 rebounds for the winners. Arvydas Macijauskas poured in 19 points for Tau, while Luis Scola posted a double-double of 17 points and 12 rebounds.
Paccelis Morlende replaced Bulleri in the starting lineup for host Benetton. Scola opened the score with a fastbreak for Tau, but Goree soon took over the match, scoring all of the Benetton's points in an early 7-4 lead for the hosts. Macijauskas now clicked into gear for Tau and cut the lead to 12-10. Benetton started concentrating on its entry passes to big men Denis Marconato and Joey Beard, who helped buid a 16-10 lead. Bulleri came off the bench now and Soragna re-opened Benetton's run, pushing the lead to its first-quarter maximum of 20-12, before Scola revived Tau with a basket-plus-free throw to close first quarter scoring at 20-15 for the hosts.
Morlende and Soragna started the second quarter by hurting Tau's zone defense from downtown, posting a double-digit lead for Benetton, 26-15. Tau's offense, which shot 6-for-14 in the first quarter, and things weren't getting better. Only a free throw by Scola fell for the guests in more than 3 minutes now. Everything was going Benetton's way as Morlende scooped up a loose ball and served Soragna for an easy jumper. Tau got another triple out of Macijuaskas, but Soragna was ready with a double-shot of back-to-back triples from the arc for the highest lead yet, 34-21. Suddenly, Tau resurfaced behind backups Andrew Betts and Travis Hansen for a 0-7 run to come within 34-28. Ramunas Siskauskas broke the run with a foul shot but Macijauskas easily found Betts to cut the lead again, to 35-30. Goree rushed back on-court for Benetton and immediately answered by stealing twice and igniting a 4-0 break to keep the hosts ahead 39-30 at the break.
Benetton showed offensive patience in finding Bulleri for a three-pointer to open the second half. Tau, in need of more scorers, got a bucket by Robert Conley and a drive by Jose Manuel Calderon, but Scola missed an easy jumper and the visitors' confidence sagged. Bulleri assisted Marconato on a slam, then made a pull-up jumper and assisted Goree for a new high lead of 16 points, 48-32, midway through the quarter. Macijauskas got a triple back for Tau and Scola scored from inside the lane to end a 0-6 run with a 48-38 difference. Goree and Morlende found baskets to offset those by Kornel David and Calderon, then Bulleri finished the quarter with foul shots that kept Benetton in charge, 60-47 after 30 minutes.
The visitors needed to counter-attack quickly in the final quarter, but couldn't quite make it happen despite Scola connecting with Kornel David. Goree challenged them and found a three-point play of his own. Tau looked to Macijauskas, but Bulleri did a great job in guarding him over the screens and, in so doing, picked up an offensive foul on Pablo Prigioni. The game looked over when Benetton ran off an eight-point flurry with Goree, Siskauskas and Morlende providing a 19-point lead at 73-54. Calderon shot from behind the arc and Scola scored 6 points from the lane, but it was definitely not enough as Garnett sealed the 75-63 final score with foul shots. Benetton had put a pair of victories between itself and its pursuers, while Tau was looking at a bigger struggle to reach the Top 16.
Wednesday, January 19, 2005