One of the teams considered a favorite to go far this Euroleague season, Benetton Treviso, confirmed its candidacy on Thursday with a 94-73 runaway win against visiting Pau-Orthez in Group A. The newest shootist to land in Treviso, Trajan Langdon, paced the victory with 24 points, including 4 of 7 three-pointers, while pickung up 4 of Benetton's 28 steals. His running mate, Tyus Edney, had 21 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists, while forward Marcelo Nicola hit for 17 points and big man Jorge Garbajosa gathered 12 rebounds and 6 steals. Pau was up for a battle through the early second half, but apart from veteran center Rod Sellers, could not keep up with Benetton. Sellers finished with 30 points and 15 rebounds, while Kyle Hill put up 14 points for Pau.
To start the game without the height and talent of injured Cyril Julian and Michael Pietrus, the French champions were obliged to play hard defence against one of the most prolific team in Europe. And they did, quite well. Benetton would play so fluid and fast as they like and Edney had to finalize possessions himself after finding all other corners of the court well covered. The one local break, to 11-7 after 4 minutes, soon vanished with Boris Diaw outfiring Mario Stojic during a nice duel between two of the most interesting young European shooters. The bench also gave confidence to Pau. Dragan Lukovski drove past Massimo Bulleri as he was not able to do against Edney and suddenly it was Pau ahead, 13-16, after 7 minutes. Benetton captain Riccardo Pittis moves forward to close the gap and put Benetton 3 points ahead after 10 min., 24-21.
Benetton coach Ettore Messina decided between quarters to line up Bulleri and Edney together. The idea paid off immediatly as the home team shot ahead 35-23 in little more than a minute. Edney unchained and Nicola sniping from the three-point line were the killer combo. Pau had it tough inside. Rod Sellers was rebounding but receives few balls through the packed-in Benetton defense. Kyle Hill was being followed by Trajan Langdon, too, but Pau was able to nibble at the deficit until cutting it in half at 31-38 after 16 minutes. Sellers had plenty to do with that, using his experience against youngster Kresimir Loncar. Things just kept getting better for the visitors until the scoreboard lights flashed 38-38, a whole new ballgame. But only for a short time: Langdom, Edney and Nicola fired up a new Benetton lead, by 7 points, and though Pau reacted some, the home team was able to go into the dressing room with 4 points inside its pocket: 45-41.
Sellers remained a protagonist at the beginning of the third quarter, drawing Denis Marconato's fourth foul. But Treviso held tight its defense, and two Langdon steals sent Benetton on a new breakaway, to 57-48 midway through the third quarter. Pau refused to surrender, as Sellers sent Nicola as well to the bench with 4 fouls. Messina replies with a small, speedy lineup to ratchet up the pressure, and it worked again. Benetton led 64-49 when Pau coach Fred Sarre chose a zone to overturn the script. That didn't work: Benetton held the edge at 70-55 as Langdon was unstoppable from the perimeter. Sellers was too alone at that point, while Hill and Lukovski could not spark a backcourt resurgence for the visitors. The fourth quarter was dedicated to showtime, with the lead hitting 20 points, 85-65, halfway through. Benetton proved to its fans it is ready for a top role in this Euroleague, too, while Pau Orthez waits to see if its talent matures in time to get in the win column in Group C.
Thursday, October 10, 2002