Despite missing the two guards who have run the show for a long time, Benetton Treviso founds its future even brighter after coasting to a 91-65 home win over eliminated Alba Berlin on Wednesday. Benetton improved to 9-4 and took over sole possession of second place in Group C as Pamesa Valencia lost at Tau Ceramica in Spain, leaving those two teams tied for third at 8-5 each. Benetton will be looking anxiously at other groups to see if it can claim the best second-place record overall and thereby lead a Top 16 group. Despite the absence of guard tandem Tyus Edney and Massimo Bulleri, Benetton had little trouble as the replacement for them, Germaine Jackson, put up 19 points 33 minutes. Maurice Evans led the winners with 25 points and Jorge Garbajosa added 14. Alba, which dropped in competitiveness after a home victory over first-place Efes Pilsen, got 22 points from Jovo Stanojevic, 15 from DeJuan Collins and 11 from Stefano Garris.
The first quarter started with Stanojevic scoring 4 straight points, but Jackson got involved quickly with a three-point play ad fed Evans for a slam dunk to get Benetton moving. Riccardo Pittis, Garbajosa and Evans, with another dunk, give Benetton the first break of the game at 13-6 after 4 minuts. After an Alba timeout and 4 more points by Benetton, only the 3 pointer by Garris kept the guests within 17-9. Andrea Bargnani now climbed off the Benetton bench to score and draw fouls. Alba could only show dunk by Garris against a new Benetton blast that ended with Jackson feeding Pittis and scoring a three-point play for a 26-11 lead. A long-distance shot by Mithat Demirel was all that pierced Benetton's zones, now including a brand new 1-3-1 zone press, as the hosts kept a 28-15 advantage after 10 minutes.
A three-pointer by Garbajosa opened the second quarter, and Alba continued struggling for shooting space until Stanojevic found his way under the basket for 35-19. Neither Collins nor John Best could shoot well, and two steals sent Benetton up 41-19 after 15 minutes. Benetton could circulate the ball against the Alba defense with ease, while Jackson showes his skills at both playmaking and scoring as the difference rose to 49-25. Isolated baskets by Garris and Collins allowed Alba to cut the distance before the halftime siren blew with Benetton ahead 51-27.
The third quarter didn't change the flow of the game, as Benetton drove to the basket and Alba could not impede back-to-back baskets by Jackson and Marconato. Best and Garris tried to bring their team back at 57-31, but good defense, fastbreak and the high-flying Evans made the difference as Benetton flew ahead 63-38. At this point, Benetton coach Ettore Messina could afford to give playing time to young guys. The home team shooting percentages were incredible: 82% from the field after 28 minutes. Alba did its best not to be swept away from the game, mostly thanks to the efforts of Stanojevic and Garris, as the third quarter ended 69-44.
The fourth quarter was mainly a chance for young Benetton players to display their skills, and Jackson was the perfect playmaker to load their guns. Evans continues to work on offense, alternating the outside shots with his incredible penetrating skills for 6 consecutive points that made it 75-49. Only Stanojevic, with his power moves to the basket, seemed to be working now for Alba. Then 3 consecutive three-pointers by Garbajosa, Evans and Giovannoni boosted Benetton's lead to 84-62. The rest of the game, both teams tried to avoid injuries and give minutes of experience to young players, although all the extra points could yet come in handy for Benetton next week in cross-group tiebreakers.
Wednesday, February 11, 2004