Adecco Asvel made an early move in Group C on opening night by taking advantage of a slow start by Virtus to win 84-88 on the road in Bologna. Someone old, someone new and someone signed away from another Euroleague team in Bologna did the trick as Asvel ruined the debut with Virtus of the coach with whom it won the French title last season, Bogdan Tanjevic. The old faithful for Asvel was Yann Bonato, whose 18 points included 3 three-pointers without a miss. The new one was Stevin Smith, Asvel's leading scorer with 20 points, plus 4 steals and 3 assists. The "borrowed" one was Davor Marcelic, who did time with Skipper Bologna last season and knew what playing at Palamalaguti was enough to add his own 18 points for the winners. Marcelic hit 6 of 7 three-pointers on the night. For Virtus, captain Antoine Rigaudeau scored 24 points, Charlie Bell put up 20 and David Andersen 10. The result gives Asvel a 1-0 record in Group C and Virtus goes 0-1
Virtus started with Rigaudeau back in the starting five, and Mladen Sekularac as first backup for the back court. Virtus took an early lead in the game, thanks to Andersen working the low post and Bell coming off the picks. Virtus was up 12-8 after 3 minutes, but Asvel stayed just a small breath behind from hosts thanks to two triples landed by Daor Marcelic. Virtus tried to run away with a five-point lead, 16-11, but a defensive problem caused by Bonato curling off screens were really difficult to solve for the hosts. Asvel started controlling each board, and when Bell stopped scoring for awhile, Asvel reeled off a 2-15 run. Center Vasco Evtimov added a final layup at the buzzer for a 20-28 Asvel advantage after 10 minutes.
Charlie Bell rang the alarm for his team with an early three-pointer in the second quarter, suddenly followed by Rigaudeau who sank two more in successionhe second and then the third triple for his team in a row. Virtus was back, closing the doors in defence, and exploiting the trance that led Rigaudeau to a three-point play inside and gave the hosts a small lead to defend. The fun continued for Virtus, running on the break and piling up a seven-minute, 21-5 run for a 41-33 lead with 3 minutes to go before halftime. Asvel has managed only 5 points to that moment in the quarter. Foul troubles stopped the break for Virtus, as both centres Frosini and Andersen were benched with three fouls, and coach Tanjevic had to hold on with small team with Ruslan Avleev playing power forward and debutante Albert Miralles playing center. Asvel recovered in the last 3 minutes, thanks to better rebounding and to Harold Mrazek, who scored inside and out. On a turnover by Rigaudeau in the last 5 seconds, Smith and Evtimov ran the break to close the Virtus lead to just 1 point, 43-42.
Asvel tried to escape in the third period with defense. Frosini scored the only basket for Virtus in the first 6 minutes, as the visitors' defense forced a series of turnovers and forced shots. Asvel, meanwhile, could thank Bonato for great one-on-one plays and Marcelic for more triples on the break. Marcelic had hit all 5 of his long shots to that point, but more importantly keyed a 2-17 run that broke the game open midway through the fourth quarter, 45-59. Young David Brkic started Virtus back with an open three, but Bonato first and then Smith were unstoppable driving to the hoop. Asvel checked the tempo of the game and sought to manage the lead, closing the quarter 12 points ahead, 56-68.
Asvel tried perhaps to control the lead too early, while Rigaudeau tried to carry Virtus upon his shoulders. The Virtus captain sank 5 straight points trying to mount a comeback, but Asvel never lost the lead of the game. Still, thanks to a Rigaudeau's pride, Virtus was back within 4 points with 3:30 to go, 71-75. Smith then made a huge three-point play and Bell was fouled out for Virtus. Now an exalted duel between French shooters, Bonato and Rigaudeau, began. Bonato sank one triple (76-81), Rigaudeau answered from three, Bonato shot and scored once again, Rigaudeau sank a couple of free throws. Asvel had a dangerous turnover at 81-84, but this time Rigaudeau missed the tying triple with 26 seconds to go. Robert Gulyas grabbed the board, Smith was fouled and converted the free throws to make it 81-86. When Stefano Attruia scored a triple for Virtus, however, it was was already too late, so even the free throws by Smith were not needed for Asvel to ensure an 84-88 upset win.
Tuesday, November 9, 2004