| Benetton Basket Tamoil retained its unbeaten record and roared into the Last 16 from Group C by holding off host Le Havre for an 76-82 victory in France on Tuesday. The victory by Benetton, now 4-0, actually settled the matter in Group C, because it also allowed BC Khimki (3-1) to qualify. The only drama left is which of them will finish first or whether Le Havre, at 0-4, can get a victory in the last two games. The hosts certainly tried at home on Tuesday, climbing back from 17 points down to within 5 in the closing minutes before time ran out. Domen Lorbek hit 6 of 8 three-point shots on his way to 21 points to lead Benetton. Radoslav Rancik put up 16 points and 7 rebounds, Bobby Dixon 15 and 6 assists, while Andrea Renzi chipped in 10 points for the winners. T.J. Thompson and Fabien Causeur led Le Havre with 17 points each, while Marcus Slaughter posted a double-double of 16 and 12 rebounds while Bingo Merriex scored 13.
Almost 3 minutes passed without scoring before Brian Laing pumped in a triple and Causeur the next 4 points to rocker Le Havre to a 7-0 advantage. Gary Neal and Matteo Soragna erased most of that, however, with back-to-back triples. Slaughter joined Le Havre's attack with a three-point play the hard way and Causeur's next shot from deep made it 15-10. Merriex joined the three-point party at 18-12, but Lorbek and Rancik finished the quarter strong by pulling Benetton within 20-19. Renzi's first basket to start the second quarter equalled Benetton's first lead, but Le Havre wasn't happy and took it back on Rudy Jomby's two-pointer and Slaughter's dunk. Dixon tied it 24-24 on a triple, but Jomby copied him to keep Le Havre a step in front , but only until a dunk by Renzi and a follow-up triple by Lorbek sent Benetton in front again, 30-33. Lorbek drilled another from deep, but two Laing layups and a Causeur triple later and Le Havre was ahead again, 37-36. Lorbek would give Benetton another lead on a three-point basket-plus-free throw before Causeur beat the buzzer with a put-back to seal a 41-41 halftime score.
Benetton went inside to Sandro Nicevic, Rancik and Dixon to blast ahead 41-47 right after the break. Lorbek's next long-range launch and another by Dixon had the visitors flirting with a double-digit lead at 46-55, but the feeling lasted only briefly as Merriex did his own back-to-back act on the three-point arc, drawing Le Havre within 52-55. It was a shootout for sure as Lorbek answered from deep, and this time when Dixon followed suit, Benetton was indeed in double-digit territory, 52-62. That fact and some stellar Benetton defense seemed to break Le Havre's spirit as the visitors' lead quickly climbed, on Renzi layups and yet another Lorbek bomb, to 55-71 after 30 minutes. But Le Havre's spirit was far from broken. Some of their own stellar defense.plus scoring by Causeur, T.J. Thompson and Merriex quickly lowered the difference to single digits midway through the fourth quarter. The hosts kept holding Benetton to just a pair of baskets in almost 7 minutes, until Thompson's three-point play made it 70-75 - the end of a 15-4 run. Rancik and Slaughter traded baskets then, but when Dixon bombed from deep to open the 38th minute, Benetton was back. Rankic's next layup restored that 10-point lead at 72-82, and Benetton allowed only a free throw until the game's last play, by which time the visitors were already celebrating passage to the Last 16.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008