Benetton sealed its ticket to the Top 16 from Group A by beating Zalgiris 82-76 in Treviso, Italy on Thursday. Both teams now share the second spot in the group standings with 7-4 records and despite the loss, Zalgiris also clinched a berth in the Top 16, as a confluence of results allowed all teams with seven victories to make it to the next round. Ramunas Siskauskas led the winners with 21 points, while Andrea Bargnani had 17 and hit a pair of key three-pointers in the final minutes. Drew Nicholas added 15 points and Marco Mordente 12 for Benetton. Reggie Freeman led all scorerd with 24 points for Zalgiris. Tanoka Beard posted a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds, Simonas Serapinas scored 11 points and Darjus Lavrinovic grabbed 13 rebounds for the guests. Serapinas and Freeman brought Zalgiris within 74-72 in the final 2 minutes, but Bargnani took over with consecutive threes to seal the outcome.
Benetton head coach David Blatt started put youngster Ernest Kalve in his starting five while Zalgiris got back-to-back jumpers by Freeman and Serapinas for an early 0-6 lead. Siskauskas hit the lane for a bucket-and-free throw to get Benetton started but Serapinas scored from inside and Beard from the line to make it 3-11 for the guests. Blatt then went with a tall lineup, calling Bargnani, Uros Slokar and Mordente from the bench, but Zalgiris kept dominating the boards. Bargnani found a triple to revive Benetton, 6-11. Slokar put a good pressure on Beard’s low post and Treviso came within 1, 10-11, after a three-pointer by Mordente. Freeman hit consecutive threes to stop the rally but Slokar dunked an offensive board and Siskauskas hit a long jumper to make it 14-17. After a free throw by Paulius Jankunas, Nicholas had the last basket of the quarter, driving for a 16-18 scoreboard after 10 minutes.
Nicholas drained a triple for the first Benetton lead, 19-18, while Beard kept struggling against Slokar. Beard’s charging foul let Benetton to get a two-point lead at 22-20, after a three-pointer from Siskauskas. Freeman tied the game with a layup before Bargnani and Jankunas traded big threes, 25-25. Slokar went inside to spur Benetton and Siskauskas’ pull-up from downtown forced a Zalgiris timeout as Benetton lead 30-25. Freeman landed another three-pointer to pull its team within a point, 32-31, after free throws by Jankunas and Jonas Maciulis. Benetton found buckets from Siskauskas and Mordente to get a 37-33 lead, but Zalgiris replied with a 0-5 run to back in charge at the halftime, 37-38, thanks to the first shot from the floor made by Lavrinovic.
A reverse dunk by Bargnani set the score on 39-40 after Lavrinovic scored free throws to open the second half. Freeman found his fifth three-pointer and Zalgiris went up by 43-45 when Lavrinovic dunked on a Beard assist. Vidas Ginevicius pushed the lead to 43-47 before Marcus Goree hit a long jumper. Lavrinovic dunked an offensive board and Beard found a low-post bucket to put the guests up 47-51. Benetton took the momentum with a 7-0 run inspired by a Nicholas three-pointer and capped by a one-handed Bargnani dunk. Up now 54-51, Benetton suffered Bargnani’s fourth foul and had to sit him down. After 2 minutes without scoring, Freeman pulled Zalgiris within 54-53 with free throws, but Siskauskas took the baseline to make it 56-53. Serapinas found a difficult three-pointer and Nicholas scored free throws to set a 58-56 Benetton lead at the end of three quarters.
Nicholas dropped a three and fed Slokar to put Benetton in front 63-57 to start the last quarter. Jankunas fired from the arc too and Ginevicius found free-throws to stay in touch, 65-62. Freeman hit a pull-up shot to cut the lead to 1, 65-64, when Jankunas missed a go-ahead triple. Siskauskas closed a fastbreak and Beard scored to make it 67-66. Both offense got red-hot now as Goree dunked, Beard added another layup and Mordente found a floater to make it 71-68 with 3:34 to play. After Serapinas scored foul shots, Mordente hit a three-pointer to build a four-point lead, 74-70. Freeman scored 2 of 3 free throws to keep Zalgiris close, but now came Bargnani time. The Benetton youngster fired back-to-back triples to fix an 80-72 scoreboard with 1:17 left. Beard got free throws for the guests, but when Slokar missed a three-pointer, Mordente grabbed the rebound and let Siskauskas make it 82-74 with seconds remaining to preserve the big victory.
Thursday, January 19, 2006