With their go-go point guard Tyus Edney making his first Euroleague appearance in awhile, Benetton Treviso wasted no time on Thursday in dispatching Alba Berlin 107-81 and, as a result, joining the very first qualifiers to the Top 16. Benetton boosted its record to 8-2, not enough to take first place exclusively, but sufficient to advance to the next round with its Group A co-leader, Barcelona, not to mention Group C boss CSKA Moscow. Edney finished with 18 points in 22 minutes for the winners, the same as his sweet-shooting sideman, Trajan Langdon. Denis Marconato added 15 points and 9 rebounds, Jorge Garbajosa 14 points and Marcelo Nicola 11. Alba's long night was not made easier even though Marko Pesic led all scorers with 25 points. Quadre Lollis chipped in 16, Henrik Rodl and John Celestand 10 each, but a drop to 3-7 pushed the Berlin team's Top 16 dream further out of reach.
Edney started the game like a dragster, with 7 points in 3 mintues, and his propulsion pushed Benetton to real jet-level, a 14-5 lead that seemed to leave Alba astonished. Pesic seemed alone for the visitors as Alba big man Jovo Stanojevic tasted Denis Marconato's elbows in the paint. Benetton just kept running and enjoying itself. Alba tried to stop the white-and-green rush with a timeout and Celestand subbing Mithat Demirel at point guard. With Edney out now, Celestand did some damage against Massimo Bulleri, but Benetton as a team just kept going, to a 17-point lead at 28-11 before finishing the first quarter ahead 30-16.
The second quarter wasn't much different as Alba kept having big problems to finding its way to the basket on offense or stopping any of Benetton's fastbreaks. The combination of Celestand and Pesic looked to be effective momentarily, but soon Benetton's defense shut them down. And its offense kept churning. With a triple from downtown, Jorge Garbajosa put his signature on the biggest lead yet, 23 points at 48-25. That distinction only lasted until Trajan Langdon popped his own three-pointer for plus-26 at 51-25. Thinking of the future, Benetton coach Ettore Messina experimented with a zone, which Stanojevic now stung with appreciable precision, while Lollis started showing fragments of his great talent for Alba. Those two and a zone press let the Berliners cut the damage to 56-37 at the interval.
As if 19 points at halftime was not a comfortable enough lead, Benetton went about boosting it more. The Treviso fans couldn't get enough of Langdon as he rammed in another triple, 4 of 7 so far. More precise from much closer in was Edney, uncatchable in the paint, where he dribbled and snaked for 7 baskts in as many shots. At times, Alba's defense could only watch, too, and as such the Benetton advantage went up and up, over 30 points. Another shooter off the bench, Istvan Nemeth, crowned that killer third quarter with a triple and Benetton's lead stood at 84-53 after 30 minutes.
In the final quarter, Pesic and Demirel summoned the pride to lead Alba away from the abyss to a more respectable scoreboard, but could not come close to challenging the lead. Rodl scored his first points to cut the deficit to 24 points, 78-102, against another atypical Benetton quintet with whom Messina was testing new tactics. Benetton was thinking ahead already, and Alba must have been also, or at least hoping that the next opponent is not in as perfect shape as the Italian champions were on Thursday.
Thursday, January 9, 2003
Luigi Maffei, Treviso