Benetton Basket Treviso bounced back from its only loss of the Last 16 by romping past Zadar 94-81 to win Group J. Gary Neal dominated early as Benetton amassed a 25-8 lead in the opening period, which would allow it to coast the rest of the way. Neal topped the 20-point mark for the fourth time in the Last 16 and matched his season high with 24 points to pace Benetton, which improved to 5-1 and will take on Group L runner-up, Lietuvos Rytas, in the quarterfinals at the Final Eight. Zadar, which could have overtaken Benetton for the top spot by winning by more than 8, dropped to 3-3 and will meet iurbentia Bilbao in Turin. Domen Lorbek shot 4 for 5 from downtown en route to 18 points for Benetton, while Dashaun Wood added 10 and center Sandro Nicevic dished 7 assists in 15 minutes. Hrvoje Peric carried Zadar with 26 points, 9 rebounds and 5 steals, while Damir Rancic netted 18 and Todor Gecevski had 10 in defeat.
CJ Wallace opened the scoring with a nice left hook as Treviso took an early 7-2 lead. Matteo Soragna drained a three, but Peric returned the favor. The game started to flow as Neal starred early with 11 points: a three, a dunk, a basket in transition and some brilliant penetrations, forcing Zadar head coach Zmago Sagadin to call timeout with the score 20-7. Gecevski responded to Lorbek before a confident Neal pulled up for a three on the break to make it 25-8. He checked out to a standing ovation as the hosts finished the first quarter up 27-11. The gap kept increasing early in the second with Rado Rancik inside and Wood outside for a 33-14 lead. A couple of baskets preceded a scoring drought, which prompted the comeback of Neal. However, Gecevski nailed a triple and Marko Car scored too for Zadar, prompting Benetton head coach Oktay Mahmuti to call his players for a chat with the scoreboard showing 37-21. Rok Stipcevic hit a pull-up jumper before Wood stopped the bleeding with a triple. Treviso's game was not flowing as well anymore, as Gecevski and Peric visited the line before Neal showed the way again. Neal teamed with Wallace, young Roberto Rullo and Rancik to add to Zadar’s misery. The hosts went to the changing room with a firm grasp on the game and first place of the group at 49-31.
Rancik and Neal showed Treviso had no intention to relaxing in the second half. Juby Johnson drained a nice jumper, but Lorbek and Neal made it a 25-point gap. The crowd was enjoying the show and realized the lead was up to 28 when coach Sagadin took a timeout for Zadar. However, Lorbek still added another triple to make it 68-37. Zadar found some pride cutting the gap to 24, but it was pretty much over as the game entered the final ten minutes. A full quarter of garbage time was in store for everyone, even though both teams were running their schemes. Teenage center Jakub Wojciechowski saw some rare court time as Lorbek kept firing in from behind the arc with success. Then it was Nicolo Cazzolato’s turn to enjoy some playing time as Treviso had two players born in 1990 and two in ‘89 finish the game.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009