Benetton Treviso has pulled off another last-minute win and can now see clearly to the Top 16 after escaping an intense challenge by visiting Efes Pilsen with an 88-86 Group A win on Wednesday. Benetton improved its record to 7-2 and mantains its first place in the Group A while Efes has now a negative 4-5 record and must fight all the harder for a cherished finish in the top four. Tyus Edney led the winners with 18 points, but once again Marcelo Nicola was among the fourth-period heroes and finished with 17 points. Bostjan Nachbar added 14. Marcus Brown, in his return to PalaVerde, led all scorers with 22 for Efes. Saulius Stombergas added 21 and Kaspars Kambala 14, but the rookie center missed two at the foulline in the closing seconds that might have sent the game to overtime, where it maybe should have belonged after 40 evenly-fought minutes.
The game started with man-to-man defense for both teams and effective offensive choices. Efes took the early lead, 9-13, with three consecutive shots scored from downtown by the Saulius Stombergas. Benetton responded impressively to that challenge, going off on a 14-0 run based on improved defensive pressure to take a 23-13 lead on a fastbreak basket by Mario Stojic, just back from injury. The period ended 26-21 as Efes big man Kaya Peker was able to score the last three points and keep his team in shouting distance.
The second period was more balanced and the two teams were close the whole time. Efes Pilsen aligned the 2-3 zone defense and Benetton challenged with its usual drive-and-dish-off attack, but the shooting accuracy wasn¿t there. A three-pointer by Kerem Tunceri gave Efes back the lead finally at 39-41 after 17 minutes. As Benetton's defense kept suffering, both the drives of the Efes guards and under the boards, the host fell down by 9 points, 38-47 with 90 seconds on the clock. Mehmet Okur suffered an ankle injury and Benetton struck back with three-pointers by Nicola and Chikalkin to within 44-47 and that's where the score remained at the break. Omer Onan was up to 11 points then for the gues, while Saulius Stombergas was still on his early 9., Marcelo Nicola and Bostjan Nachbar had 9 each for Benetton. Efes Pilsen went back to the man-to-man defense, but two 24 seconds violations for the Turkish team and a layup for Chikalkin gave a new lead of the hometeam. Still, the game was on fire and Efes was in it. The former Benetton player Marcus Brown scored 8 points in this first minutes of the period and with the help of Stombergas, who returned to being effective from the perimeter, the visitors mantained a short advantage. But Tyus Edney was unstoppable for Benetton, too, and with a final 6-0 run, capped by a mid-range jumper from Alan Tomidy, the hometeam tied the score at the end of the period, 66-66. Edney was Benetton's new leading scorer with 18 points while Stombergas had surged to 16 for Efes.
Starting the last quarter, as in Malaga eight days before, Marcelo Nicola scored five straight points, though Okur and Kambala were on fire and Efes was back into its zone defense. In the middle of the period, Stombergas gave the Turks a 75-78 advantage with a lay up. Benetton answered with its big men again, as Jorge Garbajosa and Marconato seized the lead on 82-80. Then was an incredible final of game, Stomberags scored from downtown, Garbajosa replied from the corner, Marcus Brown made a three-point play and then Marconato scored for an 87-86 Benetton lead with 32 seconds on the clock. Those 32 ticks may come back to haunt Efes. All in one play, Efes's hopes went south: Kambala missed a slam dunk, Okur grabbed the board but turned over it and Stombergas fouled out. Riccardo Pittis went to the line and made 1 of 2 for Benetton to make it 88-86. On the final possession, Kerem Tunceri's three-point attempt to win it was blocked by Edney, but Kambala grabbed the board and Garbajosa foul him. Instead of sending it to overtime, however, Kambala missed both free throws and Benetton triumphed 88-86.
Wednesday, December 19, 2001