Tau Ceramica confirmed its status as the Group C champion by downing DKV Joventut 91-83 in Vitoria, Spain on Thursday night. Tau finished Group C with a 8-2 record and registered its fifth consecutive win. Meanwhile, Joventut was fifth at 4-6 and therefore out of the Top 16. Igor Rakocevic led the winners with 19 points. Tiago Splitter and Mustafa Shakur each added 18, Pete Mickeal had 13 while Sergi Vidal got 12 for Tau. Luka Bogdanovic led Joventut with 13 points. Jan Jagla and Edu Hernandez-Sonseca each added 12, Demond Mallet had 11 while Pau Ribas got 10 for DKV. Joventut led 21-24 after 10 minutes while Bogdanovic and an outstanding Jagla boosted the guests' margin to 39-51 late in the first half. It didn't last long, however, as Rakocevic and Splitter led a 17-0 run that allowed Tau to get a 56-51 edge early in the third quarter. A three-pointer by Ferran Laviña gave the guests their last lead, 58-59. Splitter fueled an 11-0 run that put Tau ahead for good, 69-59. Joventut did not rally in the fourth quarter, allowing Tau to add another home win.
Splitter got Tau going with a driving play, as Joventut struggled to score in the opening 2 minutes. Meanwhile, Mickeal scored in the low post for a 4-0 Tau
lead. Henk Norel stepped up with a layup that Splitter erased with free throws. Ribas sank a four-meter jumper while a fast break layup by Simas Jasaitis gave Joventut its first lead, 6-7. Rakocevic found his first points on a driving basket but Jagla answered from downtown to keep his team ahead, 8-10. Rakocevic nailed a jumper off the dribble and soon added free throws to restore a 12-10 Tau edge. Mallet fired in a triple but Mickeal and Rakocevic - who saw his free throw streak stopped at 58 - kept the hosts ahead, 16-13. Hernandez-Sonseca dunked it off a Joventut timeout that Mickeal matched with free throws. Pere Tomas shined with a put-back layup while a long jumper by Hernandez-Sonseca provided another lead change, 18-19. Mallet followed a jumper with a corner three-pointer to make Joventut keep a 21-24 edge after 10 minutes.
Bogdanovic buried a corner triple right at the start of the second quarter but Vidal followed free throws with a driving layup to keep Tau within 25-27. Mirza Teletovic dunked it in transition for a 27-27 tie, after a 6-0 run. Hernandez-Sonseca scored down low but Stanko Barac answered with a put-back layup. Ricky Rubio took over with a driving layup that Bogdanovic followed with a tip-in for a 29-33 Joventut edge. Vidal and Hernandez-Sonseca exchanged baskets while Jagla sank his second triple to boost the guests' lead to 32-38. Ribas nailed another shot while a three-point play by Jagla off a Tau timeout made it a double-digit game, 32-43. Joventut excelled in defense while Ribas scored again to cap a 1-12 run. Shakur shined with a three-point play that Jagla erased with his third bomb from downtown. McDonald stepped up with a tip-in but Mallet bettered that with a triple. Shakur answered from downtown to bring Tau within 42-51 at halftime.
Rakocevic nailed a three-pointer immediately after the break and soon added free throws to bring Tau back to life, 48-51. Joventut could not find the way to the basket now while a layup by Splitter and a fast break basket by Rakocevic completed the hosts' comeback, 52-51. Splitter stepped up with a reverse layup while an outstanding fast break dunk by Mickeal capped a 17-0 Tau run for a 56-51 score. Jerome Moiso shined with a second-chance basket while a three-pointer by Bogdanovic tied it at 56-56. Splitter scored in transition but a three-pointer by Laviña put Joventut back ahead, 58-59. Mickeal answered from downtown while a power layup by Vidal got the crowd involved at 63-59. Joventut kept struggling to score against the hosts' outstanding defense. Teletovic, Splitter and Vidal made free throws while a put-back dunk by Splitter boosted Tau's lead to double digits, 69-59, after an 11-0 run. Another corner triple by Bogdanovic and a jump hook by Splitter fixed the score at 71-62 after 30 minutes.
Tau tried to slow down the game tempo early in the fourth quarter, as Teletovic rolled off the pick to make it an 11-point game, 73-62. A layup by Mickeal sealed the outcome, 75-63, with under 8 minutes to go. Laviña tried to change things for Joventut while Hernandez-Sonseca gave the guests some hope at 75-65. Joventut had improved its defense while Hernandez-Sonseca scored in penetration to bring the guests even closer, 75-67. Rakocevic rescued Tau with free throws, as time was running out for the guests despite some good news coming from Berlin - but not from Istanbul. Rakocevic - who else? - took over with a floating layup that made Joventut call timeout at 79-69. Rakocevic stayed unstoppable as everything was said and done with 3 minutes to go. Tau will keep fighting to win its first Euroleague title while Joventut returns to the Spanish League with the goal to get back to Europe's top competition.
Thursday, January 15, 2009