Tau Ceramica gave its home fans a closeup look at its romp through the Top 16 when it blew out visiting Lottomatica Roma in record-breaking fashion, 99-56 on Wednesday in Vitoria, Spain to stay undefeated in Group D. Tau raised its record after two previous road wins to 3-0 and, with two home games left still, has a foot already in the Quarterfinal Playoffs. A 17-4 start to the game said it all, but just in case Tau started the second half with an 11-0 run that soon sent the hosts ahead by 30 and on their way to a record. Tau's 43-point margin was the most ever in a Top 16 game. The previous record was 42 points, Cibona 59-101 CSKA on April 16, 2003. The victory also meant that Tau ties the longest home winning streak ever in the competition, 25 games in a row. Tau last fell at home on January 12, 2005 against CSKA, 81-85. Winterthur FC Barcelona also won 25 straight home games between November 8, 2001 and March 10, 2004. It was a group effort against Roma, with Serkan Erdogan hitting 4 triples on his way to 24 points. Tiago Splitter added 18 points, Ender Arslan 14, Luis Scola 13 and Mirza Teletovic 10. Tau also saw Zoran Planinic return to the lineup after injury and play 8 scoreless minutes. Tau's defense held Roma scoring ace David Hawkins to 0 points in 24 minutes on the floor. Alex Righetti had 13 points for the visitors and Dejan Bodiroga 11.
Lottomatica started with Roberto Gabini and Roberto Chiacig in the paint, as Tau focused on feeding Scola and Tiago Splitter the ball. Although the hosts won the battle under the boards, it was Serkan Erdogan who made the difference and boosted the hosts with 5 points, including a corner three-pointer, to an early 10-2 lead after 4 minutes. Roma struggled on offense due to Tau’s defensive effort, and the hosts ran ahead by 17-4 after 6 minutes and another hit from downtown by Erdogan. The answer came from the same distance, as Mire Chatman and Luca Garri nailed a pair bombs to get their team back on the board. Unfortunately for the guests, those points didn't prevent Fred House, Splitter and Scola from increasing the difference to 23-10. Ender Arslan and Luca Garri exchanged three-pointers in the final minute to close the first quarter with Tau leading 26-13.
The second quarter started like a three-point contest. Erdogan hit first, and then it was Arslan, quickly responded to by Dejan Bodiroga. The next shooter to hit from downtown was Mirza Teletovic, followed by Arslan again, giving Tau 4 from the arc to Lottomatica's 1 since the break, and raising the difference to 20 points for the first time, 38-18, after 14 minutes. Bodiroga rose to score 4 points in a row to give Lottomatica some oxygen, forcing Tau to take a preventive timeout. Despite good defense, the hosts didn’t need to commit too many fouls, getting only 4 in the first 18 minutes, as Lottomatica made the Tau's task easier by shooting under 40% so far. That was the case only until Righetti stepped up and drilled 3 three-pointers in a row, bringing Lottomatica to within 46-32 after 19 minutes. Erdogan, once again, came to the rescue with a jumper and Tau took a 16-point lead, 48-32, into the half.
Things couldn’t start worse for the visitors after the break as Tau punished Lottomatica with an 11-0 run behind two basket-with-free throws by Splitter and Scola. Then came another three-pointer by Erdogan that widened the gap to 59-32 after 32 minutes. Lottomatica head coach Jasmin Repesa called for an urgent timeout to try to rally his troops, but it was too late. Tau didn’t need much to find the open man on every offensive possession, and usually get rewarded with points or fouls, as Lottomatica seemed totally overwhelmed by the hosts. Scola set a 30-point lead for the hosts at 68-38 with free throws after 36 minutes, but it was only the beginning. Arslan followed him with his fourth three-pointer, Erdogan hit a free throw and Splitter capped the streak with 4 inside points as the third quarter closed 76-40 with the outcome in no doubt.
The fourth quarter was a formality until Tau started reaching for the record margin. Tau seemed unstoppable as Lottomatica paid for its frustration with flagrant fouls by Jon Stefansson and Bodiroga as the lead hit 84-42. Seeing that everything was over, Tau's interim head coach Natxo Lezkano didn’t waste the opportunity to give Planinic his first minutes after more than a month sidelined with a hand injury. The party was complete 2 minutes before the end as little-used Jesus Cilla and Ariel Eslava also took part, replacing Arslan and Splitter. Meanwhile, the gap remained stable above 30 points for the hosts, who reached a game-high 43 points margin thanks to a buzzer-beating three-point play by Sergi Vidal, guaranteeing the records as Tau remained unbeaten atop Group D.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007