The suspense of an Italian derby in Group A ended fairly early on Wednesday in Treviso where Benetton beat Skipper Bologna 95-80 thanks in large part to Trajan Langdon's incredible shooting in the first quarter. By the time 10 minutes had finished, Langdon had 20 points already and Benetton was on its way to controlling the game. Benetton and its fans had heard by then that Barcelona had lost, so the prospect of a prolonged fight for first-place depended on beating Skipper. With the job done after 40 minutes, Benetton's record is now 4-2 while Skipper falls to 2-4. Langdon ended with 32 points to lead all scorers, while Tyus Edney and Jorge Garbajosa added 21 each for the winners. Skipper had five players in double figures led by guards Gianluca Basile and Gianmarco Pozzecco with 15 points each, Giacomo Galanda with 12, Mate Skelin and Carlos Delfino with 10 each.
For the first few minutes, it looked like Skipper was the team who might run away with the game. Great concentration, steals and penetrations gave the visitors early leads of 11-3 and 14-6 as Defino and Basile scored with ease. But if anything, the points were coming too fast, because that meant a quick pace to Benetton's liking. Benetton had defensive problems under the basket, too, as Denis Marconato had trouble containing Skelin. So the home team was fortunate to have Langdon shooting often and accurately enough to forge a 17-16 lead, the first for the home team. It soon became evident that Langdon was in a state of grace: his fourth, fifth and finally sixth three-pointer would fall before the 10 minutes were spent, giving him 20 points and vaulting Benetton to a 31-16 lead.
Pozzecco entered as Skipper switched to a zone but Benetton's Istvan Nemeth celebrated his first Euroleague appearance with a jumper. Skipper kept looking inside to it centers and was rewarded with a third foul on Marconato after 13 minutes iwth the score 26-36. Kresimir Loncar came on to try to stop Skelin, but it was the defensive leadership of Riccardo Pittis that would help Benetton made another break, to a 47-31 lead after 17 minutes. Skipper tried various rotations, but the search was difficult. Benetton tried a a zone but Basile punished it to yank the deficit below 10 points, at 50-41 at the break.
Two quick baskets after the half had Skipper within striking distance at 50-45, but here came Langdon again to cancel the new danger. His recharged scoring sparked a 10-0 rush over 2 minutes that eased the collective mind of the crowd with a 60-45 reading on the scoreboard. Massimo Bulleri and Garbajosa extended that run to 19-2 as the lead hit 69-47. Langdon, with another triple, was up to 30 points in the 25th minute. But if Skipper seemed dead then, it was a mirage. The visitors raised themselves up for their own 2-16 run behind 9 points from Pozzecco to pull within 63-71 near the end of the third quarter. Benetton understood now the need to fight it through, and the hosts did just that. In 3 minutes to open the final quarter they expanded the lead to 15 points again, at 84-69, thanks to steals and fastbreaks. Skipper tried playing with three guards now - Basile play, Delfino and Pozzecco - but another comeback was not to be as the lead returned to 20 points, 93-73, with 2 minutes to play and Benetton already thinking ahead to a possible future shot at first place.
Wednesday, November 13, 2002