Tau Ceramica demolished Virtus VidiVicic Bologna 98-71 in a lopsided encounter on Thursday night, extend its Euroleague record home-court winning streak to 29 at Fernando Buesa Arena. Igor Rakocevic led Tau with 23 points as the team raced out to an early lead and never looked back. Tau led 49-34 at halftime and continued to pour it on in the second half. The lead grew throughout the third quarter and peaked at 98-60 late in the game before Virtus made a late run to save face. Tau improved to 1-1 in Group A, trailing only CSKA Moscow in the standings. It travels to Poland next week to challenge Prokom Trefl Sopot. VidiVici fell to 1-1 and next heads to Greece to meet Olympiacos. Mirza Teletovic added 18 points and 9 rebounds, Tiago Splitter scored 14, Pablo Prigioni 13 and Will McDonald 10. Delonte Holland posted 27 points and 11 rebounds and Guilherme Giovanonni scored 13 for Virtus.
Despite an uptempo style of basketball, both teams remained scoreless for the first minute of the game until Roberto Chiacig hit a free throw, which was followed by a Giovanonni layup for a 0-3 Virtus lead. VidiVici head coach Stefano Pillastrini decided to use Federico Lestini as starter to guard Zoran Planinic, but had to change his mind after the Italian committed his second foul, which forced him to be replaced by Fabio Di Bella. A three-pointer by Teletovic gave Tau its first lead at 7-5 and the visitors switched to zone defense on the next play. Although Teletovic hit again in the paint, the hosts struggled to find the way to the basket against the zone. Teletovic hit again from downtown for a 12-7 edge midway though the first period, as VidiVici survived thanks to offensive rebounding and individual performances from players like Chiacig and Holland. A bomb from Sergi Vidal and a fastbreak layup by Rakocevic forced Pilastrini to call for his first timeout with VidiVici trailing 17-9 after six minutes, but nothing changed as Tau reached its first double-digit advantage after Splitter hit twice from the free throw line for a 22-12 edge. The visitors were unable to find their momentum, as only Chiacig threatened the Tau defense. Alan Anderson, who joined the team in Vitoria after going to the United States for his first son’s birth, added a free throw and Will Conroy hit a layup to get Vidivici closer, 26-19 at the end of the first period.
Rakocevic added a triple and Pete Mickeal scored inside as Tau started to pull away early in the second period, as the visitors found a single point from Anderson in the first three minutes of the second quarter. McDonald and Planinic extended the lead to 38-20 as the hosts used a full-court pressure that made Virtus go crazy for a while. Pillastrini stopped the game with a timeout, which calmed down his team for a while. Conroy scored a fastbreak layup after stealing the ball at midcourt, but he was quickly answered by a turnaround bank shot from Teletovic. Pablo Prigioni was the next to hit a triple, breaking the soft defense of VidiVici and raising the difference to 43-24 after 15 minutes. Andrea Crosariol scored 4 points in a row, including a one-handed dunk, to prevent the hosts from reaching the 20-point margin, but he found no help from his teammates until Giovanonni nailed a pair of triples to reduce deficit to 46-34 after 19 minutes. Tau head coach Neven Spahija called for a timeout to try to cut the comeback and Prigioni hit a buzzer-beating triple to allow Tau reach halftime with a comfortable margin at 49-34.
Tau needed only three minutes to reach the 20-point margin after intermission as Splitter and Teletovic combined for a 7-2 run. Pillastrini had to face an additional problem with the third foul of Crosariol, as the 22-year old center had to be replaced by Chiacig. Five points in a row by Rakocevic and a fastbreak layup by Planinic increased the lead to 65-40 midway through the third period, as VidiVici faded away step by step. Pillastrini’s timeout proved useless, as the hosts kept rocking and adding points with little effort. The visitors struggled on every attack, averaging a single point per minute in the quarter so far. Things got even worse for the visitors after Alan Anderson fouled out with three minutes remaining in the quarter and Tau leading by 25. The hosts didn’t relax though, as a three-point play by Splitter was followed by a corner triple by Rakocevic and a layup by Mickeal for a 33-point lead. A three-pointer by Holland and a fastbreak basket by Di Bella served as a make up for Virtus, but it was just an illusion as Rakocevic and McDonald responded in the last minute for a 78-47 lead after 30 minutes.
Seeing that the outcome was in no-doubt, Spahija decided to give some minutes to Lucho Fernandez, who made his Euroleague debut at 32 after a long career in the Spanish lower divisions. It was time too for the comeback of Simas Jasaitis after missing the Euroleague opener in Athens due to an infection. Meanwhile, the game continued with one only issue to solve – the point difference. Both defenses relaxed a bit, especially on the visitors’ side, which allowed Tau to add easy points and boost the lead up to 37. Jasaitis hit a three pointer for a game-high 38 point-lead at 98-60 with two minutes remaining, as Spahija decided to put also youngster Ander Garcia on court for another Euroleague debut. Virtus took advantage of it to reduce the difference and an alley-oop by Crosariol and a triple by Holland reduced the gap to 98-65 entering in the last minute. A free throw by Luca Garri, followed by a triple by Lestini and a buzzer-beating layup by Conroy capped a 0-11 run to finish the game.
Thursday, November 1, 2007