Benetton forged a tie at the top of Group G with a game left in the Top 16 when it downed visiting Cibona 88-80 in Treviso, Italy on Wednesday. Both teams now have 3-2 records, but Cibona stays ahead in potential head-to-head tiebreaks due to its 11-point home win in the first Top 16 game between the teams. Both teams can qualify for the Quarterfinal Playoffs with victories next week, however, when Cibona hosts Efes Pilsen while Benetton visits Panathinaikos. On Wednesday, Marcus Goree led the winners with 19 points while making 7 of 10 two-point shots. Drew Nicholas added 18 points, Ramunas Siskauskas had 17 that included 8 of 8 free throws, Andrea Bargnani 13 and Marco Mordente 12 on 4-for-4 shooting for Benetton. Scoonie Penn led the way for Cibona with 24 points, Bennett Davison added 16 and Marin Rozic 14 on 4-for-4 shooting. Benetton fired in its first 7 three-pointers of the game on the way to a 48-37 lead. Penn and Rozic brought Cibona within 74-71 but the comeback attempt failed as Goree and Siskauskas led Benetton to a well-deserved win.
The game opened with the guests copying the hosts as Bennett Davison replied to Andrea Bargnani’s triple with one of his own. Later, he dunked after a Goree layup to tie the game at 5-5. Chris Warren scored back-to-back baskets with a dunk and an offensive board for Cibona, but Bargnani scored his second triple to lift Benetton in front by 11-9. Benetton got a five-point lead, 16-11, when Uros Slokar hit a pull-up jumper and Goree a free throw, but Davison and Penn soon reduced the gap with a dunk and a pair of foul shots to 16-15. After foul shots by Petar Popovic, Nicholas popped a three-pointer that widened Benetton's edge to 21-15. Penn’s reply came from beyond the arc, but so did Benetton's answer to him, off the hand of Matteo Soragna, who beat the buzzer to fix a 24-18 score after 10 minutes.
Benetton turned to its big men to start the second quarter and got what it wanted as Popovic scored a basked and Goree posted a baseline dunk to boost the lead into double digits at 30-18. Cibona switched to zone defense that Marco Mordente hurt with a triple, although Penn matched him at the other end and Jurica Zuza added a basket to keep the guests within 35-25. Nicholas answered from downtown - indeed, at the same spot from which Mordente hit- and lifted Benetton’s lead to its maximum to that point with free throws that made it 43-27. Davor Kus revived Cibona with a three-pointer, 43-30, before Nicholas and Marin Rozic did the same to set a 48-35 score with a minute left until the break. Down the stretch, Nicholas missed a jumper while Mate Skelin hit a layup to pull Cibona within 48-37 at the halftime.
After Mordente and Davison exchanged baskets to open the third quarter, Penn brought Cibona nearer with 4 straight points, but Bargnani and Goree found layups close to the basket to give Benetton a new double-digit lead at 55-43. Penn helped Cibona stay close, but Bargnani and Goree couldn't be slowed. Their newest baskets pushed Benetton up by 14 points, 59-45. Zuza hit a long jumper and Marin Rozic scored a bucket-and-free throw to get Cibona back within single digits, 60-51. After Nicholas and Siskauskas shared 4 points for Benetton, Kus hit free throws and Penn drove the lane for a three-point play, cutting the difference down to 64-57. However, Siskauskas nailed a huge triple and Nicholas followed a jumper by Davor Marcelic for Cibonato with a buzzer-beating shot to preserve a 10-point Benetton lead, 69-59, after 30 minutes.
Marin Rozic spurred Cibona with a three-pointer and free throws to get the guests within 72-65 after 2 minutes of the final quarter. Cibona’s rally kept going as Penn pulled drove to the basket to complete a 4-10 run that made it 73-69. Nicholas hit the first Benetton field goal in 5 minutes to build a 76-69 score before Siskauskas took over. He scored 4 straight foul shots and landed a big triple that gave Benetton a 12-point lead, 83-71, with 3 minutes to go. Davison replied from inside the lane but Goree hit a layup-with-free throw and fed Bargnani for another basket to make it 88-74 with 1:40 left to play. With the winner clear now, Benetton tried to preserve the point difference to do better than the 12-point win of Cibona in their first game in Zagreb. But Penn and Davison reduced the gap to 10, 88-78. On last possession, Nicholas missed a penetration and Davor Kus’s free throws sweetened the loss for Cibona to a 88-80 scoreboard that, nonetheless, let Benetton tie the guests for first place in the group.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006