After leading in the second half by 23 points, Benetton needed a full effort at the end to hold onto an 80-75 Group C victory against visiting Olympiacos on Wednesday in Treviso. The Reds outscored Benetton 22-42 in the final 15 minutes to close within 3 points, 72-69, with 3 minutes left. Benetton's great accuracy at the foul line, 19 of 20 at the end, helped the hosts pull out the victory. Benetton's record improved to 3-2 and put in in a three-way tie for third place with Tau Cerammica and Idea Slask Wroclaw. Olympiacos is still winless at 0-5 but showed it will not give up ever. Five players of Benetton went in double digits, led by Guillherme Giovannoni, who had 18 points and 6 rebounds. Tyus Ednay added 16 points, Maurice Evans 13 and Jorge Garbajosa 11, while center Denis Marconato posted a double-double with 12 points and 10 boards. Giorgos Diamantopoulos led all scorers, bagging 22 points for Olympiacos. Ruben Wolkowyski added 16, including 4 thee-pointers, and Panagiotis Liadelis 15 for the Reds.
To Treviso fans who were waiting for a duel between Evans and the man who replaced him at Olympiacos, former Italian League scoring leader Boris Gorenc, a different matchup flourished first. The Reds new go-to guy, Panagiotis Liadelis, sent Benetton guard Massimo Bulleri to the bench with 2 fouls after just 2 minutes. With veteran Riccardo Pittis unavailable due to an injured knee, Benetton coach Ettore Messina called on 17-year-old Manuchar Markoishvili to fill in. Olympiakos has good results from its zone defense, but new coach Dragan Sakota chose to have his team play man-to-man again after seeing Benetton's getting too free for comfort. But it was inside with Denis Marconato where Benetton dominated early and, following a basket by Guillherme Giovannoni, got its first lead at 9-10. In the span of a coule minutes, in fact, Giovannoni showed why his future is bright, scoring 8 points in every matter - dunks, jump shots and drives - as Benetton led 17-15 after 10 minutes.
Incredibly enough, Giovannoni continued into the second quarter with another 4 points in helping put Benetton in the clear at 28-21 after 14 minutes. The Benetton defense, meanwhile, was giving Olympiacos great difficulty on offense by blocking every route for Liadelis, while Gorence had yet to climb off the bench. Only Diamantopoulos was dangerous for the visitors, but not enough to threaten the Benetton dominance in this quarter. The Reds could be happy when Dalibor Bagaric got to work in the paint for a basket. But soon after that, Benetton made one of its regular, sudden escapes when Marcelo Nicola drilled back-to-back three-pointers for a 36-21 lead after 16 minutes. The scoring was limited over the next 4 minutes on both sides, such that the visiting Greeks could only cut the lead by a point to 41-27 at halftime.
After the break, Benetton held Olympiacos scorless for more than 4 minutes to forge a 9-0 run that included a spectacular alley-oop from Tyus Edney to Marconato that meant a 21-point lead, 48-27. A few seconds later, Evans added his own slam for 50-27. Sakota called a timeout and his team answered with an 0-8 run with 2 triples posted by center Ruben Wolkowyksi, putting 50-35 on the scoreborad. A flagrant foul called on Marcelo Nicola, a free throw posted by Goran Jurak and another three-pointer by Wolkowyski lowered the deficit to 54-41. Bulleri made a mid-range jumper for Benetton, but the Reds continued with 2 baskets in response to get within 11 points, 56-45. Only a basket at the buzzer from Marconato, assisted again by Edney, could let Benetton smile about a 12-point advantage, 58-45.
A free throw sunk by Edney during the break for a technical foul gave enlarged the gap to 59-45, but a 6-0 run led by Diamantopouolos and for the first time since the first half Olympiacos was within singe digits, 59-51. A layup by Edney and the additional shot from the foul line returned Benetton's cushion above 10 points, 68-57, with 6 minutes left, but the Reds weren't finished. Liadelis stole a ball from Marconato and turned the resulting fastbreak into a three-point play that made it 70-64 with 4 minutes left. Liadelis again drove to the rim to score a layup, and then the Reds were within 72-68 . Wolkowyski missed 1 of his 2 free throw attempts then, while Jorge Garbajosa scored a pair for 74-69. The decisive basket came next: Bulleri stole the ball and missed a layup alone, but Edney pulled down the offensive board and assisted Evans to score for 76-69. The Reds had made their run, but Benetton had enough to resist the upset at the finish.
Wednesday, December 3, 2003
Luigi Maffei, Treviso