Benetton took the high road into the Top 16 from Group C when it thrashed visiting Pau-Orthez 87-66 in their winner-take-all confrontation in Treviso, Italy on Wednesday. A 32-12 second quarter turned the game around completely and Benetton never looked back on its way to a 7-6 record and the inside track on third place in the group standings. Pau missed its a chance to qualify for the second consecutive week and saw its record fall to 6-7. Pau will have to watch other scores to find out if it depends on itself or not in the final week of the regular season. Terrell Lyday was the big gun for Benetton, pouring in 31 points on near-perfect shooting to go with 6 assists and 4 steals. Lyday nailed 4 three-pointers himself and his team went 7-for-7 from the arc in the game's first 21 minutes. Nikos Zisis, with 11 points, was Benetton's other double-figure scorer. Michael Write and Melvin Sanders canned 14 points each for Pau, while Britton Johnsen had 11.
Benetton seemed to be feeling the heat early as it misfired 5 times to start the game and Pau took a 0-4 lead on points by Johnsen and Wright. A half-court press took Lyday by surprise and Greer scored inside to force an early Benetton timeout at 0-6. Goree soon put his team on the score sheet but Miles responded immediately, and when Zizis got the crowd going with a three-pointer, C.C Harisson re-established the silence with his own. By the time Miles connected from beyond the arc and downed the added free throw for a four-point play, Pau was already up by double digits, 5-15. Mordente then drew a crucial second foul on Harisson, who had to be replaced, but Miles still pulled Pau further away, at 9-21. Benetton used the last minute of the quarter well, as Soragna and Miles scored 2 points each before Bryant Smith launched a triple that landed on the buzzer to get the hosts back within shouting distance at 16-21 after 10 minutes.
Benetton's resurgence soon turned into a takeover. To the 6-0 run that finished the first, the hosts would add 15 more unanswered points to start the second quarter. Spencer Nelson got it started with a hook shot and Lyday's jump shot provoked a Pau timeout. It didn't help, however, as Zisis buried another triple for Benetton's first lead, 23-21, and the hosts kept going from there. A pair of free throws by Marcus Goree were like a deep breath before Lyday and Nelson rained back-to-back triples, capping a 21-0 run that had the home crowd going wild. It was all going sour for the guests as Miles and Wright were off target and Harisson got his third foul. After another timeout, Greer eventually got Pau's first points in more than 6 minutes at the foul line to make it 31-22. The game lost then a bit of its intensity now, but Lyday soon woke his men up with a jump shot and a three-point play to establish a double-digit edge, 39-27. Lyday was on fire now, taking his man off the dribble to tally 6 quick points, while Wright worked hard to keep Pau from falling too far back. When it looked as though Sanders had the final word of the half, stealing for an easy layup, Zisis made amends for his turnover by scoring an impossible buzzer-beater from way beyond the arc, good for a 48-33 Benetton cushion at the break.
After the half, Lyday picked up where he had left off , nailing Benetton's seventh three-point shot without a miss. Johnsen and Wright got some easy points inside for Pau now. Lyday kept taking advantage of Harrison's three-foul handicap and when Zizis connected from downtown, the lead was up 58-39, prompting another Pau timeout, 58-39. Angelo Gigli boosted the difference to 21 points, Lyday drew Harrison's fourth foul and Joey Beard added a layup to make it 64-42. Lyday's hand was not getting any colder, either, as he answered a triple by Sanders by returning the favor. Turnovers, travelling and airballs: nothing was going Pau's way as the third quarter ticked away to an irreversible score of 68-45.
The last quarter started off in the worst possible way for Pau, with Harrison committing an unsportsmanlike foul, his fifth, and hitting the bench for good. Beard had fun finishing a spectacular Mordente move and pass. There were 8 minutes left still but no feeling of a miracle comeback. The game was moving along to its inevitable conclusion, but the crowd rose to give an ovation to the man of the match, Lyday, as he left the court. Benetton was going to another Top 16 and Pau's chances would come down to the final week of the regular season.
Thursday, January 25, 2007