Despite the absence of its leader, Tyus Edney, Benetton Treviso added another handy road win on Wednesday by beating Pau-Orthez 88-93 in Group A. The victory came with an unexpected simultaneous good news from Italy, where Skipper beat Barcelona. That means that Benetton and Barcelona are now tied for the Group A lead at 6-2, while Pau-Orthez falls to 3-5. In a game that started with a quick pace and decreased in the second half, Pau had options in the first 20 minutes, but the Benetton machine was back after intermission to seal the deal. Trajan Langdon was the best man for the winners with 20 points. Massimo Bulleri added 19, Marcelo Nicola 16, Denis Marconato 14 and Jorge Garbajosa 12. For Pau-Orthez, Rod Sellers and Kyle Hill nailed 18 each and Mickael Pietrus added 14.
Pau-Orthez had an impressive start on both ends, combining high shooting percentages and good defense for an early 8-2 lead that forced the first timeout called by Ettore Messina. But that didn't work as Mickael Pietrus put Pau ahead by 6, 12-6 with a layup and Sellers made it 14-6 after an offensive board. Marconato and Garbajosa tried to pull up the visitors, but Cyril Julian hit a 3-point play for a 19-12 Pau lead. It was at that point when the guests reacted to pull within 19-16 after a 0-4 run and Fred Sarre interrupted the reaction with a timeout. Both teams were shooting above 70% and found easy options when facing the basket. In the last minutes of the period, Pau went back to its pace of the start, but Benetton followed closely to a 27-23 scoreboard after 10 minutes.
The second period was much better for Benetton, which started with a 0-5 spurt to jump ahead, and from that point, both teams started a race for the lead, taking constant turns, but never by more than 2 points. A three by Marcelo Nicola put the guests up 32-33, but Julian struck back for Pau at 34-33. The game was still fast, both teams still had good shooting percentages. Then came another 0-7 burst by Benetton, sealed by Langdon from downtown for a 44-50 edge to the visitors. Sarre called a timeout when he saw that the Italians could be pulling away. But it didn't have the desired effect as Bulleri conneceted for three again and the lead hit 46-55. Pau-Orthez was playing its game, but on the other side, Benetton was playing much faster and with accuracy from long range. Mickael Pietrus alleviated the situation of the locals with a three that made it 51-55 with a 1 minute to go in the quarter, but it was only a mirage before the buzzer, as the teams hit the lockerrooms 51-59.
The level of shooting accuracy decreased in the sceond half, as it was almost impossible that the teams continued playing like they did in the first, but Benetton still managed to maintain the lead at 57-64. A quick reaction by the hosts led by Mickael Pietrus put a 63-67 on the scoreboard, but Pau didn't know how to take advantage of that comeback and the Italians pulled away again to 63-70. The intensity on the offensive end of Pau-Orthez was high, and Benetton found more problems than in the first half, but the individual plays by Bulleri and Langdon always kept the guests ahead. It wasn't until the last minute of the period, when Pau hit 4 straight free throws thanks to Pietrus and Julian, that the hosts managed to be back at only 3 points down, 67-70, and leave the game to be decided in the last quarter.
Neither team scored in the final quarter until Garbajosa forced a 3-point play under Pau's basket in minute 3, but missed the free throw for a 67-72 Benetton advantage. Pau continued with its biggest flaw, too many missed shots, and Benetton took a 10-point lead, 67-77. Frederic Fauthoux appeared at the right time though to hit for three, but Nicola replied soon with the same resource to maintain the double-digit lead for the visitors. Only 5 minutes remained and the confidence of the guests was growing with a defense that made each Pau shot attempt difficult. Benetton wasn't in a rush on offense and moved the ball for long, and if they pulled the board after a missed shot, the process started all over again as the clock advanced. With 78-88 on the board and 2 minutes to go, the game seemed decided but Pau changed to a press defense to force mistakes on Benetton. A quick three by Kyle Hill, his second in a row, made it 83-88 with 40 seconds to go. The fans pushed also, but Langdon hit the layup for 83-90 and Dragan Lukovski was called for travelling in the following play and Benetton had another victory.
Wednesday, December 11, 2002