Still-exclusive Top 16 Group G leader Cibona sent a message that echoed all around the Euroleague when it thrashed visiting Benetton Treviso 91-80 in front of a sellout crowd of 5,400 at Drazen Petrovic Basketball Center in Zagreb on Wednesday. Cibona, the last team to qualify for the Top 16, remains only team unbeaten in Group G with a 3-0 record. Meanwhile, Benetton dropped to 1-2 before hanging its hopes on its next two games, both in Treviso. Scoonie Penn led the winners with 24 points and 7 assists. Bennett Davison posted a double-double of 20 points on 8-for-9 shooting, including 6 dunks, and 10 rebounds. Chris Warren added 15 points and Davor Kus 12 for Cibona. Drew Nicholas had 29 points for Benetton. Ramunas Siskauskas pitched in 14 while Marco Mordente and Marcus Goree each added 10 for the guests. Kus and Davison fueled a 13-0 run that gave Cibona a 50-30 margin at halftime and held up at 71-50 after 30 minutes in which Cibona dominated at both ends. Benetton tried to ignite a late comeback, coming to within as few as 8 points in the closing minutes, but it proved too little, too late for the guests.
Siskauskas started the game with a driving layup to which Matt Santangelo added with a five-meter jumper for a 0-4 Benetton lead. Skelin fired up the crowd with consecutive dunks while Benetton found an answer in Petar Popovic, who scored twice in the paint to keep the guests ahead, 4-9. Davison provided a highlight with a put-back dunk that Siskauskas balanced with a fallaway jumper at the other end. Davison and Goree exchanged baskets, too, before Penn hit back-to-back jumpers to bring Cibona within 12-13. Nicholas kept Benetton in front with a driving basket but after Chris Warren answered with a baseline layup, Rancic hit a corner three-pointer to give Cibona its first lead, 18-15. Rancic kept going with an outstanding drive that he followed with a fallaway jumper. Goree stepped up with a layup but Warren beat the buzzer with his own corner triple for a 25-19 Cibona lead after 10 minutes.
Penn capped Cibona's 19-6 run with a mid-range jumper to start the second quarter, but the hosts were far from done. Popovic tried to change things for Benetton with a put-back basket and Nicholas added a three-point shot to bring the guests within 29-24. Then, however, Davison took over with a dunk in traffic and Penn scored off the dribble to force a Benetton timeout at 33-24. After that, Kus fired in a corner triple to boost the lead to 12 points, 36-24. Nicholas answered from downtown for Benetton but Davison dunked again, igniting a new 13-0 run in which Damir Markota hit a jump-hook, Kus another big triple and Jurica Zuza a stop-and-pop jumper. Suddenly, Cibona's margin had soared to 49-27. Benetton went scoreless for 4 minutes until free throws by Popovic and Nicholas limited the difference slightly, to 50-30 at the half.
Goree tried to start a Benetton comeback with a dunk and a big block on Skelin right after the break. Cibona had trouble scoring score now as Marco Mordente stepped up with a basket-plus-free throw and Goree hit a jumper to give Benetton some hope at 55-39. It didn't last long, however. Warren responded with a triple from the corner and Penn copied him soon after that to keep Cibona fully in charge, 60-41. Warren and Davison shined next, with consecutive dunks, forcing Benetton to call timeout at 64-41. Davison provided the highlight of the day with a one-handed alley-oop dunk which capped a 9-0 Cibona run. Nicholas made free throws for Benetton while Mordente erased Davison's layup-plus-free throw with a corner three. Then Nicholas followed a fastbreak dunk with free throws to bring Benetton within 71-50 after 30 minutes.
Matteo Soragna scored in the paint for Benetton to open the final quarter, but Penn kept Cibona's momentum with a long jumper. Nicholas and Siskauskas sparked Benetton with big triples from downtown, cutting the difference to 75-58 with under 8 minutes to go. Penn shined again with a driving basket but Siskauskas kept pacing Benetton with a basket-plus-free throw to which Goree added a fastbreak dunk to force a Cibona timeout, 77-63. Davor Marcelic hit his trademark jumper but a five-guard lineup with Siskauskas at center and an effective zone defense helped Benetton keep rallying. Santangelo scored in transition and Nicholas fired in a corner triple to bring Benetton within single digits, 79-70, with under 5 minutes remaining, but after a Cibona timeout, Kus reappeared to beat the shot clock with a critical triple. Even though Cibona adjusted its defense, back-to-back baskets by Nicholas and Siskauskas brought Benetton even closer, 82-74, but Warren sealed a well-deserved win with a three-point play, allowing Cibona's fans to carry on dreaming of bigger heights.
Wednesday, March 8, 2006