With a takeover move before and after halftime that left no doubt at all, Benetton Treviso rolled to a blowout 57-83 road win over AEK Athens in Group A on Wednesday. The victory lifted Benetton to 4-2 and a sure third place, at least, in the standings. AEK fell to 2-4 and will hope to retain part of fifth place by the end of the week. A 1-25 run that lasted 10 minutes and bridged the second and third quarters did it all for Benetton. The catalysts of that blast were Drew Nicholas, who finished with 17 points, and Andrea Bargnani, who had 16, the same as Marcus Goree. The mistake-free Benetton defense did the rest. AEK could only take heart in 21 points scored by its new point guard, Lionel Chalmers, but his 5-for-11 two-point and 3-for-10 three-point shooting helped explain the hosts' problems. Taylor Coppenrath added 10 points for AEK, while Amit Tamir collected 16 rebounds.
Despite appearing without a last-minute injured starter, center Giannis Bourroussis, and missing its first 7 shots, AEK started the game with a lot of energy that allowed the hosts to dominate under the boards. In less than five minutes, AEK had already grabbed 14 rebounds, including 11 on offense. Amir Tamit, the replacement for Bourroussis, had 6 points in an 8-0 run that vaulted AEK to a 12-4 lead. When Slaven Rimac hit a three-pointer and then scored on a drive, AEK had a 17-6 advantage after 6 minutes. Benetton coach David Blatt switched to a zone defense and the visitors found their go-to guys in Nicholas and Petar Popovic, who combined for 7 unanswered points to pul their team within 17-13. By the time Matteo Soragna canned a triple to finish the quarter, the AEK lead was down to 18-16.
Nicholas, it turns out, was just getting warm in the first quarter. Now, he got to the line for 4 more points, but each time he tied, Coppenrath answered to keep AEK ahead. When Chalmers checking in with back-to-back triples, AEK was still up 28-23, but this time the answering was done by Marco Mordente of Benetton. AEK still led, 29-27 on a free throw by Spyros Panteliadis after 17 minutes, but Nicholas and Benetton were about to explode. He started and ended a half-finishing 0-12 run for the guests with three-pointers while Goree and Andrea Bargnani filled in the middle points to send Benetton soaring into halftime with a sudden, double-digit lead, 29-39.
When the teams returned for the second half, Benetton turned it up to full power with a 0-9 opening blast that blew the game wide open. With Nikos Zisis in charge, the visitors played with stability and concentration as Bargnani had 5 points of the run, including a jumper that made it 29-48. Combined with its score before the half, Benetton had a 1-25 run to show for the previous 10 minutes. Chalmers scored AEK's first basket in that span to make it 31-48 and Panteliadis tried to wake up his teammates, but Benetton stayed focused and remained in control of the game. When the hosts cut the difference to 37-50, Soragna and Mordente simply connected from downtown and boost the margin to 39-62 after 30 minutes.
Benetton continued to dominate into the fourth quarter. The visitors had made 49 percent of their shots from the field until then, while AEK was making just 27 percent. Soragna and Goree scored a triple more each to keep the margin above 20 points. The most interesting moment of the quarter came when Benetton point guard Zisis, who had played his whole career until now with AEK, left the game. He was treated to an emotional standing ovation by the home crowd as Benetton cruised to an easy victory. AEK was empty of energy as Benetton soared to a final margin of 57-83.
Wednesday, December 7, 2005