| Panellinios moved within one win of the Quarterfinals and eliminated Benetton Basket along the way with an 81-85 win in Treviso, Italy, on Tuesday night. Devin Smith and Kostas Charalampidis combined for 53 points to lead Panellinios as it improved to 3-1 in Group K. Head coach Ilias Zouros's men can advance to the Quarterfinals as soon as next week if they beat Brose Baskets or lose by fewer than 8 points in their showdown in Bamberg, Germany. Benetton, meanwhile, a quarterfinalist last season, lost its fifth straight Eurocup game and dropped to 0-4 in Group K, losing all chances of reaching that stage again. Benetton visits Bizkaia Bilbao Basket next week in a game only meaningful for the hosts. The game was close much of the night and Benetton tied the score at 66-66 on a K.C. Rivers free throw four minutes into the fourth quarter. But Rivers missed his second attempt, which could have given the hosts the lead, and Charalampidis and Ian Vougioukas helped the visitors jump ahead. C.J. Wallace narrowed the gap to 70-72 only to see back-to-back threes from Charalampidis and Smith seal the win. Smith led Panellinios with a season-high 27 points, Charalampidis added 26 by making 6 of 7 from downtown and Vougioukas and Manolis Papamakarios scored 11 each for Panellinios, which overcame its 20 turnovers to win thanks to 15 of 26 three-point shooting. Gary Neal paced Benetton with 25 points, Rivers scored 13, C.J. Wallace 12, Davor Kus 11 and Sandro Nicevic 10.
Andrea De Nicolao was a surprise starter and repaid the faith in him with an immediate steal. In fact, the whole Benetton team was aggressive on the ball and forced another steal and a half-court violation. However, Treviso was off target on offense, and Rod Blakney and co. took advantage to go up 4-7. Wallace banked in 6 quick points to tie things at 10. However, Manolis Papamakarios and Smith combined for 8 points to put the visitors back ahead 18-14. The quarter ended with a mini three-point festival: Smith again for Panellinios and two for Treviso through Rivers and Kus at the buzzer to make it 20-22. Daniel Hackett scored from the line a minute into the second quarter before Georgios Kalaitzis and Smith responded from behind the arc, prompting Benetton head coach Repesa to call a timeout at 21-28. Treviso had to work hard for its baskets, getting them inside with Nicevic and Wallace, while Panellinios kept doing damage from outside with a couple from Charalampidis. Shooting accuracy was the difference, but Kus looked to have beaten the buzzer again with a three to reduce the gap to 2. The referees, however, decided there was more action to come before going to the locker room and ordered to add 2 seconds to the clock. Smith made full use of them with a killer triple.
Neal stole the ball and saved it from going out with a brilliant behind-the-back pass to Wallace. Rivers concluded the offence with a put-back. A second steal from Wallace had the crowd on its feet. In terms of atmosphere, it went from a third division 200-seat capacity game to the OAKA in just a half. You could hardly hear the whistle from the refs. A technical foul on Repesa only fired up the arena more. One thing remained unchanged after three minutes of play: the gap, which was plus 5 for the visitors. Charalampidis drained another triple, but Neal kept his team in the game with three consecutive baskets. Neal eventually gave Treviso its first lead of the game, 58-57. Still, Vougioukas had a nice hook and another basket inside to keep Panellinios ahead entering the last 10 minutes, 58-61. Hacket’s corner triple tied things at 61 but, Charalampidis returned the favor. Hacket on the break drew an unsportsmanlike foul, but the hosts struggled to get over the hump. Treviso recouped only 3 points from as many visits to the line, just enough to be level at 66. Panellinios regained a four-point lead, however, through an unsportsmanlike foul and a three from Charalampidis. A nice left-hand hook from Wallace was met by a triple from the red-hot Charalampidis. The visitors were 75-70 up with 2:40 to play when Smith drilled a dagger. Neal scored a tough triple, but Kalatzis and Papamakarios put an end to Treviso’s run in Europe with more long range shooting.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010