On snowy night in Siena, Italy, host Montepaschi took awhile to warm up but got hot with the return of injured center Roberto Chiacig to run away with an 82-55 victory over visiting Krka on Thursday in Group B. The win lifted Montepaschi to a 6-5 record, good for sole possession of fourth place in the group with three games remaining. Krka fell to 1-10 despite holding a one-point lead at the half. Chiacig was the catalyst in the second half for the winners and ended up posting a double-double of 22 points and 14 rebounds. Bootsy Thornton added 16 points for the winners, Vrbica Stefanov 14 and Giacomo Galanda 12. For Krka, Slavko Duscak drilled 14 points and Marton Bader 13 with 7 rebounds. Montepaschi's defense held Krka to just 20 points in the second half.
The match started with the hosts jumping to a five-point lead thanks to good ball circulation which allowed high-percentage shots. Thornton led the way, playing well without the ball. The guests reacted by using a few turnovers to their best advantage as Duscak quickly drilled 6 points. When Krka was unable to get fastbreaks going, Marko Antonijevic immediately decreased the pace of the match and tried to feed big man Rick Rickert in the low post. Rickert made a pair of difficult, off-balance baskets and then the quarter finished with the jumper by Duscak that got Krka within 17-16 after 10 minutes.
Bader opened the second quarter with a powerful three-point play, slamming and drawing a foul on Chiacig. Krka went on trying to play to Duscak, who gladly sank another triple to make it 23-27 for Krka. Bader added an easy layup after an offensive board for Krka's maximum lead before Montepaschi came back with a jump shot off the dribble by Dusan Vukcevic and a corner triple Stefanov. Mindaugas Budzinauskas interrupted the good moment of the hosts with a quick triple, but Montepaschi persisted to take a 34-32 advantage. But Clarence Gilbert of Krka wouldn't agree and drilled from downtown again to put the guests up 34-35 at halftime.
Montepaschi returned to the court with a sweet reverse layup from Chiacig and a triple from up top by Galanda, who then added another 2 points as the hosts surged ahead, 41-35. Stefanov tossed in a rainbow over the hands of Jure Balazic, while Krka waited almost 4 minutes to hit its first basket of the second half, a triple by Gilbert that helpe don the scoreboard. Montepaschi flew away, however, to 49-38 thanks to strong defense, as Mindaugas Zukauskas enlarged the hosts' run to a 18-3 with a shot from the arc. Duscak replied with a triple again, but Stefanov answered him from the long distance. Both team switched to a zone defense and Bader turned 2 offensive rebounds into layups, helping to cut the difference for Krka to 59-47 after 30 minutes.
Chiacig and Thornton scored the first 4 points of the final quarter to push the lead to 63-47, and the handwriting was on the wall. Montepaschi had a 70-52 lead with 5 minutes to play, and Krka had nothing left to challenge that breach. Vanterpool assisted Thornton with a pass from behind the back of his defender as the Montepaschi lead reached 21 points. Soon Montepaschi coach Carlo Recalcati sidelined Chiacig to allow him an ovation for his great performance. The only bad news for the home crowd was that David Andersen was still missing with an ankle sprain and might be needed yet to nail down Montepaschi's ticket to the next round.
Thursday, January 29, 2004