Benetton Treviso maintained its status as favorite in a tough group by winning on the road 70-82 on Wednesday at Virtus Bologna in a rematch of last season's semifinalists. After turning back every attempt by Virtus to get close, Benetton rose to 2-0 in Group F as it awaits the outcome on Thursday of the Maccabi-Tau Ceramica battle in Tel Aviv. Virtus fell to 0-2, suffering its second home loss in a row and dashing many of its hopes to survive and see another Final Four this season. Benetton led almost throughout the game thanks to Trajan Langdon, whose 20 points helped bust up the zone defense of Virtus. Benetton got double-digit scoring also from Marcelo Nicola and Denis Marconato, who hit 13 points each, Jorge Garbajosa, who contributed 11, and Massimo Bulleri, who nailed 10. David Brkic led Virtus with 17 points, followed by Derrick Dial with 15 and German Scarone with 10.
Virtus started with good intensity, taking an early 7-4 lead. Benetton suffered a couple of turnovers that led to Virtus fastbreak; Matjaz Smodis hit a three-pointer, but Trajan Langdon of Benetton responded with a double shot from behind the arc to get the visitors going. Benetton found confidence with Langdon's three pointers and once coach Ettore Messina started rotating bench players, Benetton was able to make its first run. Massimo Bulleri hit another three that gave Benetton a six-point lead, 11-17. Even though the visitors were also rebounding well, Smodis and German Scarone kept Virtus in the game. Veteran leaders Edney and Riccardo Pittis would rise up before the quarter ended, however, to give Benetton some important fastbreak points good for an 18-23 for the visitors after 10 minutes.
Virtus stepped on court with a different attitude in the second quarter, and thanks to 7 straight points by David Brkic, including 2 triples in a row (the second receiving also a foul), the hosts were able to take a small lead. Benetton benched Edney and gave room to Dante Calabria, who found good offensive solutions to help his team in its most difficult moment. Benetton took back the lead, but Derrick Dial made a great tap in to reclaim it for Virtus. The hosts had flashes of good basketball, while Benetton was missing open shots. But right before the end of the second quarter, the guests found the indeed intensity to make another run. Garbajosa made a couple steals and finished the resulting fastbreaks at the other end. Virtus tried to find something in the paint with Dejan Koturovic, but Benetton increased the tempo and surged ahead again. With a 12-2 run to finish the quarter, Benetton reached intermission with 8 points to defend, 35-43.
Virtus suffered a slide in the third quarter due to poor scoring, only 3 points in the first 7 minutes as Benetton took full control with a 12-3 run. Benetton continued to play good defense and add to the lead until it reached 14 points after 25 minutes, 38-50. Benetton continued adding to it by feeding Denis Marconato and Langdon coming off picks. With his team now down 16, Dial stopped the slide with a three that made it 41-54, and was followed by German Scarone. Virtus switched to zone defense now and was back within 7 points, 47-54, thanks to free throws by Koturovic and Dial. Garbajosa stopped the come back with a couple of free throws, but Alessandro Frosini was fouled and converted 2 of his own. The Virtus zone created more problems for Benetton until Langdon scored a three that gave the guests a double-digit lead again, 51-61, at the end of the quarter.
Thanks to Scarone, Virtus did not sink at the beginning of the final quarter. Benetton didn't play good offense, but had enough defensive intensity to keep the lead. Virtus was still playing zone, and on offense found enough good shots inside the paint to reduce Benetton's lead to 7 points, 59-66. But now the zone of Virtus was broken open by Langdon and Marcelo Nicola from the perimeter. Their triples let Benetton fly ahead 59-74. The outcome was clear from there, and in only in the final minutes did the lead hit its highs for the night, 18 points at 59-77, before settling for the final difference of 12.
Wednesday, March 5, 2003