Armani Jeans took its first Group B home victory by topping 70-58 Winterthur FC Barcelona on Thursday in Milano. Armani raised its record to 2-4 and now shares sixth place in Group B table with Olympiacos and Prokom Trefl. Winterthur FCB dropped to 3-3 to share third place wiith Maccabi and Cibona. The key was the defensive performance of hosts, who held Barcelona scoreless for 6 minutes in the final quarter in an 11-0 run that proved decisive for Milano's victory. Joseph Blair was the hero for Milano after amassing a double-double of 15 points and 13 rebounds to go with 2 blocks. Dante Calabria chipped in 13 of his 15 points in the first half. Massimo Bulleri also nailed 15 points and Mario Gigena 10. Gianluca Basile was the scoring leader for Barcelona with 15 points, while Denis Marconato added 12 and Shammond Williams 10.
Williams nailed a corner three to put Barcelona ahead to start the game, but Calabria replied with 5 unanswered points to give Milano its first lead, 5-4. Bootsy Thornton and Bulleri exchanged acrobatic baskets, as Milano tried to shut down the guests' perimeter with a 3-2 zone defense. Meanwhile, Preston Shumpert had a steal which allowed Blair to dunk for a 9-6 lead. Basile answered from downtown to tie 9-9 before Giacomo Galanda and Marconato exchanged mid-range jumpers. Basile then pumped in an eight-meter three-pointer to give Barcelona a 11-14 cushion midway through the quarter. Calabria fired his own an open triple and added a put-back basket to put Milano back in charge, 18-14. Blair scored in the paint, Fucka nailed a mid-range jumper but Calabria beat the buzzer with a three to fix the score at 23-16 after 10 minutes.
Early in the second quarter, Claudio Coldebella scored from beyond the arc to give Milano its first double-digit margin, 26-16. Barcelona did not panic, however, as Thornton and Basile stepped up with consecutive triples to cut the difference to 26-22. Blair made a mid-range jumper to help Milano stay in charge, 30-22, as both sides struggled to score. After 2 quiet minutes, Blair and Marconato exchanged baskets. The low-scoring pace allowed Milano to keep its lead, 35-26, once Blair made his first free throws after 5 misses from the line. Rodrigo De La Fuente stepped up with a mid-range jumper for Barcelona, but Shumpert slashed for a layup that gave the hosts a 37-28 lead at halftime.
Basile needed just a few seconds to nail a triple after the break and cut the gap to 37-31. Galanda and Marconato exchanged a pair of baskets, but Bulleri's mid-range jumper restored a double-digit Milano lead, 45-35. Basile scored a tough basket but missed the free throw that came with it, while Gregor Fucka added an easy layup to keep Barcelona alive. Even with that, Galanda made free throws and Gigena added an spectacular reverse layup to keep Milano up 10 points until Williams boosted Barcelona with back-to-back triples to make it 51-45 after 28 minutes. Fucka had a big block on Diego Fajardo, who had an unsportsman foul on Basile before Michalis Kakiouzis struck from downtown to bring Barcelona within 51-49. Bulleri's jumper kept Milano up 53-50 after 30 minutes.
A layup by Gigena gave air to Milano to start opening the final quarter by extending the lead to 55-50. Blair blocked a Kakiouzis layup try and Barcelona coach Dusko Ivanovic took a technical foul, but Milano missed 3 of the 4 free throws. Blair a minute later took his fifth offensive rebound, which led to Bulleri scoring an easy layup to make it 58-50. Barcelona was unable to find open shots now against the tough Milano defense, and Bulleri scoring another layup forced the guests to call timeout after more than 4 scoreless minutes. Nothing changed, however, as Blair continued haunting Barcelona with another offensive rebound and put-back to make it 64-50. By the time Blair assisted by Galanda for a 66-52 score with 2 minutes left, the win was sealed and Milano had an important win in Group B.
Thursday, December 8, 2005