Armani Jeans Milano moved into position to make the Top 16 when it pulled off a major 75-77 road win over Winterthur FC Barcelona in Group B on Thursday. Milano now finds itself tied for sixth place with Cibona, both holding 5-8 records. Another victory when it plays Olympiacos at home next week would put Milano in the Top 16 regardless of what Cibona does in its final game, at home against first-place Efes Pilsen. Milano dominated the first three quarters, but Barcelon's Shammond Williams put his team ahead Barcelona ahead late, 70-67, before the hero for the visitors, Massimo Bulleri, reemerged to save the victory. Barcelona dropped to 7-6 and remains fourth, but still retains chances of moving up in its last game, at Maccabi. Bulleri led Milano with 27 points while hitting 6 of 7 three-pointers. Dante Calabria added 15 points for the winners. For Barcelona, Williams posted 21 points on 6 of 9 triples, Gianluca Basile added 14, Juan Carlos Navarro 12 and Gregor Fucka 10. Both teams combined for 22 triples on the night.
Bulleri opened the duel with a triple on the shot-clock buzzer and Dante Calabria soon joined him from the arc for a 1-6 Milano start. Fucka finally scored for the hosts and the MVP for January, Navarro, followed him to make it 7-8. Joe Blair scored in the paint for Milano, but Fucka gave Barcelona its first lead with consecutive baskets that made it 11-10. Milano moved the ball fast and found open men, most notably Bulleri, whose next 2 triples capped a 0-9 run for the visitors. Navarro blasted from the arc, too, but Giacomo Galanda did the same for Milano to make 16-22. Bulleri still had time for his fourth triple to close the first quarter with Milano ahead 18-25.
A free throw parade opened the second quarter, including a pair by Roger Grimau after Alejandro Montecchia's unsportsmanlike foul, leaving Milano with a 22-31 edge. There were no points besides foul shots for 3 minutes, 30 seconds until Michalis Kakiouzis fought his way to the rim for Barcelona. Blair finally hit a basket for the guests, and as Barcelona continued struggling on offense, Pretson Shumpert supplied Milano's first double-digit lead, 26-36. Milano's active defense kept forcing turnovers while Calabria found himself hitting his team's seventh triple of 8 tries to finish an 0-8 run. Now, however, Barcelona found its own shooter in Williams, who blasted a three to get the difference down to single digits, 35-44, at halftime.
Williams hit a triple from the left corner to start the second half, but Bulleri found steady jumpers to launch Milano ahead 40-48. Gianluca Basile got Barcelona going now with 5 points as Milano struggled in offense. A spectacular fastbreak layup by Navarro was matched by Calabria, but Basile sparked the Barcelona defense by rising to block Blair's shot. The game was not as tough as in the first half, but the shooting percentages were not that good either. Barcelona tried to play longer offensive possessions but Navarro lost the ball and Grant drove to lift Milano ahead 49-56. Basile was on fire, however, adding 4 straight points to rally the crowd, but Galanda shut quieted them with a fast triple. Grimau found the answer for Barcelona, also from the arc, to leave a 56-59 score after three quarters.
The defenses forced 2 scoreless minutes to begin the last quarter until Mario Gigena nailed a triple for a 56-62 Milano edge. Williams replied from downtown for Barcelona but so did Calabria with Milano's 10th triple of the night. Williams merely hit the fourth triple of the quarter to make it 62-65, but was far from done. His next two shots, also from the arc, brought down the house and gave Barcelona its first lead, 68-67. Williams was the absolute leader on court now for Barcelona as he fed Kakiouzis for a 70-67 score, and with 2:30 minutes to go, it was Barcelona's turn now to reach 10 triples with Basile hitting from downtown. After Bulleri and Williams split a pair of free throws each, Barcelona still led 74-71 with 90 seconds left. Bulleri reappeared to change the momentum with a game-tying triple to make it 74-74. Basile missed on the other side and with 30 seconds to go, Kakiouzis fouled Blair for free throws. He scored only one and when Williams missed a triple with 10 seconds to go, Calabria was fouled. He hit both attempts to make it 74-7. Navarro came back in, got fouled in the last seconds, and tried to make one and miss another to give his team a chance at the offensive rebound. Instead, the miss fell to the smallest player on the court, Bulleri, who held on to preserve Milano's last-ditch attempt to reach the Top 16.
Thursday, February 2, 2006