Benetton Treviso became the second team to reach the Top 16 from Group C by beating Ulker 62-69 on the road in Istanbul on Thursday. Benetton climbed to the second spot in the standings with a 7-5 record, enough to mathemaically make it to the next round, while Ulker dropped to 6-6 and must keep trying for the Top 16. Massimo Bulleri led the winners with 21 points, 11 of them in the final period, including a crucial three-pointer in the final minute. Marlon Garnett added 12 points on 4 of 5 three-pointers, while Joey Beard grabbed 14 rebounds and Marcus Goree 12 for a Benetton advantage on the boards of 31-42. Serkan Erdogan led Ulker with 16 points, Tutku Acik added 12 and Eurelijus Zukauskas 11.
Although its long possessions found few open shots, Benetton's excellent defense set the pace early. Goree hit a three and Bulleri added a jumper off a screen for a 0-5 Benetton margin, while Ulker went scoreless for 4 minutes until Zukauskas stepped up with a basket-plus-foul. Even with that, Ulker lacked concentration in both ends of the floor, while Bulleri followed a three-pointer with a layup for a 5-10 Benetton lead. Ulker kept committing turnovers while Bulleri did a good defensive job on Erdogan. Acik replaced Kerem Tunceri and scored 5 quick points to bring Ulker within 10-13, but Beard answered with a left-handed jump hook while Garnett's corner three gave Benetton its biggest lead so far, 10-18. Zukauskas made a layup for a 12-18 scoreboard after 10 minutes.
A basket by Zukauskas and a fast break layup by Acik made it a four-point game at 16-20 early in the second quarter. Benetton reacted with cool three-pointers by Ramunas Siskauskas and Matteo Soragna to extend the lead to double digits, 16-26, as seven visiting players had already scored. Ulker started to rally behind strong defense. Dion Glover scored around around the basket, while Tunceri returned to drill a triple from up top and follow it with free throws for a 23-26 scoreboard. Benetton, meanwhile, went scoreless for 5 minutes until Goree made a couple free throws. Beard's rebounding at both ends helped Benetton keep control of the tempo, however, allowing Siskauskas to score in penetration and Bulleri to hit 4 of 4 free throws to extend Benetton's margin to 26-33 at halftime.
Ulker struggling against Benetton's strong man-to-man defense early in the third quarter. Soragna had opened fire right after the break with a triple to start a 2-8 run that Garnett capped wide open three from the right side. Garnett followed with another triple, this one over Zukauskas, for a 14-point Benetton lead at 30-44. Erdogan came to the rescue for Ulker. He followed a three-pointer, his first basket all game, with a long two-pointer to close the gap to 35-44. Garnett had time to drill his third triple in this period to make it 35-47, but Benetton's points dried up then. Meanwhile, Kerem Gonlum scored off a steal, Fatih Solak added a two-handed slam and Dion Glover beat the buzzer with a fallaway jumper, capping a 6-0 run which brought Ulker within 41-47 after 30 minutes.
Ulker finally exploded in the fourth quarter, even through it started with 2 scoreless minutes that Beard ended with free throws for a 41-49 Benetton edge. Ulker cut its deficit minute by minute after that. Erdogan followed a three-pointer which a five-meter jumper, and by the time Virginijus Praskevicius added another basket, Ulker was within 48-51. A red hot Praskevicius added a big three to tie the game again, 51-51, with less than 7 minutes to go. Bulleri scored in penetration and Goree added a four-meter shot, but Acik fired in a bomb from downtown to give Ulker its first and only lead of the game, 56-55. It didn't last long, as Bulleri stepped up with a mid-range jumper, while Beard added a tip-in and Soragna capped a 0-5 run with a free throws which gave Benetton a 56-60 edge with 2 minutes to go. Acik gave Ulker some hope with a layup, but Bulleri became the man of the game by hitting a critical three-pointer entering the final minute. He added free throws to seal the outcome at 58-65 with 39 seconds remaining. A two-handed dunk by Beard sealed Benetton's win in style, as the guests made it to the Top 16!
Thursday, January 27, 2005
Gokhan Ture, Istanbul