Tanoka Beard put up big numbers in the paint to lead Zalgiris to its first win of the Euroleague season, 83-65 over Eldo Basket Napoli on Thursday night in Kaunas, Lithuania. Beard made 8-of-11 two-pointers on his way to 17 points and 11 rebounds to lead Zalgiris, as it improved to 1-1 in Group C. Napoli fell to 0-2 and will look for its first win when it hosts Aris TT Bank next week in Italy. Napoli led only once, 7-8 in the opening minutes, before Zalgaris broke away and controlled the game the rest of the way. The hosts won the battle of the boards 37-22 and made 73.5% of their two-pointers, helping to secure the victory. Hanno Mottola scored 17, Marko Popovic had 14 and dished 4 assists and Vidas Ginevicius added 12 for Zalgiris. Tierre Brown totaled 21 points and Ansu Sesay 15 points and 6 rebounds in defeat.
Jonas Maciulis missed two three-pointers to start the game, but Mottola stepped up and made one from outside to put Zalgiris on board. Eldo Basket reacted immediately, as Alessandro Cittadini drove inside for a layup. Zalgiris responded with 4-point spurt before Brown copied that on the other side of the court, causing Zalgiris coach Ainars Bagatskis to call for timeout. The move worked out, as red-hot Popovic wisely distributed the ball to others and created shots for himself that extended the gap to 20-12. The visitors then called for timeout and returned to the court with different attitude. Jeff Trepagnier drained a three-pointer and Brown penetrated nicely for a basket that reduced the margin to 20-17 at the end of the first quarter.
Zalgris started the second period more determined, with Paulius Jankunas drilling a triple from the right wing and then dishing to Beard for an alley-oop on the very next possession. Zalgiris continued to dominate in the paint through Beard's efforts, while Eldo Basket turned to outside shooting, a move that paid off with two triples by Sesay to bring Napoli back at 31-27. The visitors continued their up-tempo attack, which caused the Zalgiris defense some problems, while Sesay fed Cittadini for an easy layup. Ginevicius found his inside for a layup and then added a steal and two assists all within the span of one minute to put Zalgiris back up 38-28. After a break in the action, things only got worse for the visitors as Zalgiris added a three-pointer and free throw from Mottola as the home team took its biggest lead yet, 42-28. The teams exchanged a few more baskets before the end of the first half, which ended with Zalgiris leading 45-34.
Trepagnier opened the second half with a triple before Mottola made a pull-up jumper and Kirk Penney dropped in a basket from the low post after a nice pass by Beard. The visitors tried a man-to-man defense that slowed the pace and forced Zalgiris into a turnover, but Eldo Basket didn’t convert it to points and Popovic answered with two free throws and an assist to Maciulis for a two-handed dunk. Eldo Basket didn't give up, as Brown led a 6- point surge, ended by a Domenica Morena dunk. Penney ignited the crowd with shot from downtown, but it didn’t help Zalgiris solve Brown, who added a three-point play. Ginevicius's triple followed by Mottola block closed the quarter at 65-52.
Morena was the fourth visiting player to fall into a foul trouble after fouling Mottola, who made a pair of free throws and added a layup in a pick-and-roll play for his 17th point. However, Trepagnier stepped up with jumper from the high post and drove along the baseline for a nice layup to keep his team’s hopes alive at 69-56. Sesay fouled Jankunas to stop his penetration, which proved to be a smart decision, because Jankunas missed both free throws. Zalgiris continued to struggle at the offensive end until Ginevicius drove inside for a flashy one-handed off-the-glass layup and Popovic added pair from the free throw line that extended margin as wide as 75-58. It seemed to be a pivotal moment, because Eldo Basket lost its rhythm, while Zalgiris seemed relaxed. Cittadini made a left-handed shot from under the basket that was followed by an open three-pointer from Sesay, but Napoli ran out of time as the hosts were left to celebrate an 83-65 victory in the front of their devoted fans.