An undermanned Benetton Treviso took care of business early on the road Thursday and never looked back en route to a 74-87 victory at Adecco Asvel that ended a two-game losing streak for the Italians. Victory meant that Benetton is now 7-4 and tied for second place in Group C with Pamesa Valencia, both practically sure of making the Top 16. Asvel dropped to 2-10 and will not repeat its feat of a year ago, when it reached the Top 16 on the last game-day. Already without two injured contributors, Massimo Bulleri and Denis Marconato, Benetton also started the game without Tyus Edney, but that did not matter, as the guests were soon in full control and eventually amassed leads as high as 30 points. Maurice Evans fired his way to 24 points for the winners, while Edney came off the bench for 16, Jorge Garbajosa 12 and Ghilherme Giovannoni 11. For Asvel, doomed by low shooting percentages, Robert Gulyas had 23 points and Karim Souchu 13.
With Marconato and Bulleri out, Benetton coach Ettore Messina began with a surprising starting line-up that saw veteran forward Riccardo Pittis as the point guard and Edney on the bench. As such, Benetton had a height advantage at every position. With an extremely active Giovanoni, Benetton made an 8-2 break in 3 minutes, forcing a first Asvel timeout. Messina switched defense then, to a 1-3-1 zone, and Asvel was unable to score against that, either . With Benetton stll leading by 6, Edney and Uros Slokar came on court, but soon a three-pointer by Souchu allowed Asvel back within 9-14. Benetton made four big defensive plays in a row, resulting in three fast breaks and a pair of free to boost the lead to 9-22 after 8 minutes. Garbajosa then hit the target from long distance as the visitors cruised to a 12-27 score after 10 minutes.
Benetton kept up its defensive intensity in the second quarter, such that Asvel had to sweat for every basket. The hosts were saddled with turnovers, 8 by then, forcing coach Philippe Herve to call another timeout with 14-34 on the scoreboard. Asvel tried to press but Edney used his quickness to avoid it, and as the Benetton defense was still clamping down, any rally by the hosts was delayed. Eventually, a good zone defense and some baskets in transition allowed Asvel to make it 22-39 halfway through the quarter. Rebounds, 21 in all by halftime, sustained Asvel as Gulyas drew 2 fouls while grabbing offensive caroms. Despite a splendid alley-oop from Pittis to Slokar to beat the shot clock, Asvel continued to get to the free throw line and keep the deficit from widening. It took a huge shot at the buzzer by Edney to give Benetton it's biggest lead yet, 28-50, at halftime.
Asvel came back with a zone and the will to play better transition defense but Benetton's passing game proved really efficient, with 6 assists in the third quarter alone. Evans showed how quick he is, scoring 5 points in a row to make it 36-62 midway through the quarter. Benetton systematically double-teamed Gulyas and Asvel couldn't find any solution on the perimeter. Meanwhile a give-and-go between Marcelo Nicola and Giovannoni ended with a slam by the Brazilian and a 29-point Benetton lead. Giovannoni's layup on a shot-clock buzzer pushed the gap to 30 points before another double-team on Gulyas resulted in a new fastbreak dunk by Evans. At the buzzer on the third, it was Gulyas's turn to dunk, but Asvel still faced a 46-75 mountain to climb.
Benetton lacked concentration at the beginning of the last quarter, allowing Asvel to score 9 points in 4 minutes. But Evans continued his show and with the outcome already clear, both coaches gave their young players some playing time. Asvel got the deficit down as Rolandas Alijevas put in 5 points to make it 65-83 with 2 minutes remaining. Gulyas added a layup, a dunk and a three-pointer to cut it down further, but by that time Benetton was already thinking ahead to the Top 16.
Thursday, January 29, 2004