Benetton Treviso's rise through the Group C ranks continued on Wednesday when it slowly but surely pulled away to a 70-86 road win over hosts Alba in Berlin, Germany. Benetton used a pair of 0-10 runs in each of the last two quarters to register its fourth consecutive win for a 4-2 record and at least a share of third place. Alba, meanwhile, fell to 1-5 and must rally soon to keep its Top 16 hopes alive. Though some of its regulars had quiet nights, Benetton had plenty of protagonists, including Jorge Garbajosa, who put up game-highs of 23 points and 10 rebounds. Maurice Evans poured in 22 points and pulled 7 rebounds for the winners, while Riccardo Pittis collected a double-double of 10 points and 10 assists, besides making 5 steals. DeJuan Collins led Abla with 19 points, while John Best added 13 and Jovo Stanojevic 11, but with several players injured, the Germans couldn't keep up as Benetton used more and more of its talented bench.
Alba took the court without three injures players, center Szymon Szewczyk and guards Stefano Garris and Mithat Demirel, while Benetton's big surprise of the previous week, forward Guillerme Giovannoni, was back in Italy at the military world championships in Catania. Benetton started cold, missing its first shots and allowing Alba to jump ahead 7-0 on baskets by Best, Pesic and Petrovic. Maurice Evans finally put Benetton on the scoreboard, and then some, with with 10 straight points that were only answered by a second triple Pesic, which forged a 10-10 tie. At 12-12, Alba switched to zone defense, irritating Benetton for a while. Best completed two fast breaks to put the hosts up 18-12, before Bulleri and Nicola found Benetton's answer to the zone from outside and cut the difference to 18-17. Ozturk with a free throw put the score at 19-17 in Alba's favor after 10 minutes.
Benetton keeps on struggling against Alba's zone in the second quarter, however, missing several shots from outside. DeJuan Collins and Ozturk shot Alba ahead 25-19, but then Benetton found Garbojosa inside to shorten the gap to 28-25. Alba chose to go inside again, too, and Ozturk's two layups opened the advantage again to 32-25. Benetton's response was to switch to zone defense, too, which left the Berliners struggling on offense. Riccardo Pittis took advantage of Alba turnovers to run fastbreaks, then Garbajosa and Bulleri gave Benetton its first lead at 35-36. Collins hit 2 huge three-pointers to bring Alba back into command at 41-38 before Nicola's layup for 41-40 finished the first half. Collins was then leading Alba with 10 points, while Evans was Benetton's best scorer with 12.
Benetton after the break remained in its zone defense and, despite Alba center Jovo Stanojevic scoring first, the guests executed a 0-10 breakout using the turnovers of the hosts. Edney joined the fastbreaks to score his first points as Benetton took a 43-50 lead. After a timeout, Alba's defense got things back under control under their own basket, but Pesic and Collins missed crucial three-pointers and Marko Verginella, inserted for Petrovic after his fourth foul, turned over the ball twice. So the score remains in favor of Benetton, 45-53, until Collins and Verginella scored 4 points for 49-53. That is when Manuchar Markoishvili's three-pointer bounced up and down on the rim to slip through for 49-56 and at the end of 30 minutes, Benetton still had the same difference, 51-58.
Verginella opens the last quarter for Alba with 2 points from outside, but Alba misses its next four attacks against Benetton, which still remained in its zone defense. Garbajosa, Edney and especially Evans used Alba's turnovers and missed shots for another, and this time game-deciding, 0-10 break to a 53-68 lead. Collins, Petrovic and Best finally found some three-pointers for Alba, but it was far too late. Benetton's young prospects, Markishvili and Uros Slokar, were on the floor to seal the road win for the Italians, 70-86, and put them as close as ever to the top of Group C.
Wednesday, December 10, 2003