The new challenge represented by the Top 16 became apparent quickly as Group F opened with Tau Ceramica downing mighty Climamio Bologna 94-84 at home in Vitoria, Spain on Wednesday. Tau is now 1-0 and will co-lead Group F with either Panathinaikos and Zalgiris after they play on Thursday. Climamio dropped to 0-1. Arvydas Macijauskas led the winners with 26 points on 10-for-16 shooting. Sergi Vidal added 14 points, Kornel David 13, Luis Scola 12 and Jose Manuel Calderon 10 for Tau. Gianluca Basile led Climamio with 28 points on 6-for-10 three-point shooting. Milos Vujanic added 23 points and Ruben Douglas 16. Tau and Climamio combined to make 27 three-point shots, one more that the previous Top 16 record set by Scavolini Pesaro and Benetton Treviso in 2001-02. It was a tough battle between both teams, especially in a physical opening period in which Travis Hansen was ejected and Matjaz Smodis picked up four fouls. Macijauskas broke the game in the second quarter and reached halftime with a 20-point advantage. Climamio came back to within 7 points with 4 minutes to go, but back-to-back threes by Calderon and Macijauskas ended the visitors' last threat.
Vujanic opened fire with a long three-pointer to give Climamio the first lead at 0-3, but the guests were scoreless for the next 3 minutes. Tau reeled off 8 points to get ahead and force a Climamio timeout. The guests were frustrated and soon a fight broke out between Scola and Dalibor Bagaric, who was benched with 2 quick fouls. The situation got worst after Matjaz Smodis and Kornel David scuffled and several other players got involved. The result of that fight, which stopped the game for a few minutes, was the third foul on Smodis and the ejection of Travis Hansen after only 5 minutes. When game was restarted, Tau increased its margin to 17-10. Smodis got his fourth foul after committing an offensive foul. Climamio switched to zone defense, but 2 three-pointers by Macijauskas allowed Tau to retain an small lead, 25-21, at the end of the first quarter.
Scola and Macijauskas got really hot to start the second quarter, with 4 points each that extended the Tau margin to 33-25 after 13 minutes. Stefano Mancinelli hit a triple to reduce the gap for Climamio, but Macijauskas repeated from downtown to prevent the guests from rallying. Tau amassed a double digit margin at 38-28 as Sergi Vidal drew a flagrant foul on Martin Rancik midway through the quarter. Climamio switched again to zone defense but it didn't work as good as the first time and Tau used three-point plays by Vidal and Macijauskas to surge ahead 48-31. An exchange of baskets over the last 2 minutes before intermission ended with a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Vidal to close the half with a 55-35 lead for Tau.
Tau center Tiago Splitter came out strong after the break and powered the hosts inside to preserve the 20-point edge. Vujanic and Basile remained the only reliable scorers for Climamio. As such, Tau didn't need to make a big effort to keep a solid cushion, not even when Vujanic added 5 straight points for a 66-51 score after 25 minutes. Climamio kept shooting from outside in an effort to rally, but most of its attempts found nothing but iron. A fastbreak layup by Robert Conley returned a 19-point edge to Tau, and after Ruben Douglas hit 2 free throws at the end the third quarter, Climamio was still 17 points away, at 73-56.
Climamio maintained its zone defense as it attempted to come back in the fourth quarter, but its low shooting percentage remained a problem until Douglas stepped up with back-to-back three-pointers to help Vujanic draw the guests to within 13 points, 80-67. Vujanic followed him with another triple and then drew Scola's fourth foul to force a Tau timeout at 80-70 with less than 5 minutes to go. A free throw by Vujanic and a bank shot from Lorbek brought Climamio within 80-73, but Tau reacted quickly and definitively with key three-pointers from Calderon and Macijauskas to kill the Climamio rally at 86-73 wit 3 minutes to go. Tau tried to push the lead as high as possible at the end, but Basile hit an amazing 10-meter buzzer-beater to close the score at 94-84.
Wednesday, February 23, 2005