Tau Ceramica of Spain exacted revenge on rivals Partizan with a 59-65 road win in Belgrade on Wednesday to join the new crowd in first place in incredible Group D, which now has six teams within one victory of each other. Tau improved to 7-4, good for a first-place tie with AEK, Scavolini and Ural Great. Partizan falls to 6-5, which is still good enough for a fourth-place tie with Ural Great and Adecco Asvel. Excellent strategy and great defense were the keys for Tau as the Argentinian trio Luis Scola (16 points), Fabricio Oberto (14 points and 10 rebounds) and Andres Nocioni didn't tango, but played hard rock defense which broke one Partizan attack after the next.
Playing without star point guard Elmer Bennett, Tau controlled the game all 40 minutes, shooting only after 20 seconds in each possession. On a night when points were very difficult to come by - Partizan's total was only 19 more than its top shooter, Vlado Scepanovic, scored a week ago on the road - Tau's rebounders ruled. They turned 19-30 advantage on the boards into the extra possessions needed to offset a 1-for-9 shooting night from beyond the arc. The only good attempt from 6.25 meters was by Hugo Sconochini in the third period, but it was more than enough even though Partizan made 6 of 22 triples.
The game began like a friendly one. After five minutes the score was 4-2. There were a lot of turnovers (Partizan 10, Tau 8) and missed shoots for both sides as the defenses refused to give an inch. The first half ended with Partizan showing a miserable percentage from the field, 31%. Tau Ceramica was 0-for-5 on threes at that point. A 30-30 tie at the half said it all about the defensive emphasis of both teams and the trouble everyone had in putting ball through net.
The second half began with an 8-2 Partizan run that seemed to lift the hopes of local fans as the lead went up to 38-32. Those hopes were dashed in the next few minutes, however, with a 4-21 Tau response that turned the game around. The scoreboard now read 42-53 and Tau didn't look like it would give up a single point more. That run was more about great defense than scoring, and rest of the way, Oberto, Noccioni and Scola were even more stingy on the boards, grabbing what seemed to be every rebound en route to the final victory. In the entire second half Partizan had only 5 rebounds, to 16 for Tau. The last two minutes Partizan spent trying to keep the losing margin under 5 points, what they won by at Vitoria, in case of a future tie-breaker, but Tau would not allow that either. Not tonight, and not even in Belgrade.
Wednesday, January 16, 2002