| Benetton Basket Tamoil started the Eurocup Last 16 by edging Unics 68-66 in Treviso, Italy in Group J on Tuesday night. Benetton is now tied for first place in Group G with Turk Telekom and visits Zadar next week. Meanwhile, Unics hosts Telekom next week. Gary Neal led the winners with 13 points. CJ Wallace added 12, while Sandro Nicevic had 10 for Benetton. Kresimir Loncar led Unics with 18 points. Sergei Chikalkin had 11 against his former team while Marko Popovic and Igor Zamanski each had 10 for the guests, who played without Tariq Kirksay and Terrell Lyday - another former Benetton guard. Dimitriy Sokolov and Chikalkin fueled a 2-11 opening run that allowed Unics to keep a 13-19 edge after 10 minutes. Neal and Renzi shined to give Benetton a 28-23 lead, but three-pointers by Popovic and Chikalkin tied the game at 30-30 at halftime. Wallace and Nicevic scored inside late in the third quarter for a 58-56 Benetton edge after 30 minutes. An outstanding Loncar gave Unics a 54-59 edge, but DaShaun Wood and Neal put Benetton back ahead, 61-59, with 4 minutes to go. Wallace played a key role with the go-ahead fast break layup and a critical block on Chikalkin in the final minutes. Unics had the game's final possession, but Popovic missed a step-back three-pointer at the buzzer.
The Unics defense stood out at the start of the game as Dmitry Sokolov, Zamanskiy and Chikalkin – the latter with 4 points and a brilliant step-back jumper – gave Kazan an 11-2 lead. Wallace inside and Vladimir Veremeenko exchanged baskets before coach Oktay Mahmuti called timeout for Treviso down 4-13. Matteo Soragna ended a two-minute scoring drought from the line, but Loncar drained a basket. More free throws at both ends, a beautiful three off the dribble from Soragna and an Artem Kouziakine jumper made it 19-11 score before a Andrea Renzi’s hook shot ended the period at 19-13. Wallace’s put back opened the second period, but Popovic drilled a nice floater. Wood and Renzi brought Treviso within 2 with back-to-back triples. Wood then tied it and Renzi handed Treviso its first lead. Then Neal and Popovic exchanged triples, good for a 28-26 edge for the hosts. A Chikalkin catch-and-shoot and a Rado Rancik put-back was followed by a Popovic drive, but Bobby Dixon evened the score at 30-30. Zamanskiy was very close to sinking a halfcourt bomb, but the score remained unchanged at 30-30 in a low-scoring first half.
Zamanskiy and Dixon kept it tied at 35 with respective threes at the start of the third. Nicevic found his range and Wallace netted a nice left hook, but Sokolov responded with two baskets of his own. The crowd got on its feet after a brilliant Nicevic block that denied Sokolov, and he also added a jumper at the other end, but Loncar’s hook bounced in. Wallace’s points inside were met by a tough Zamanskiy triple, but Nicevic was the man of this quarter with a great left-handed finish as the game was heading to the last quarter on a 48-46 score. Popovic silenced the crowd with an early triple and Loncar led Kazan’s surge with 8 quick points, while only Neal could score for the hosts. Mahmuti was forced to call timeout at 51-57. Rancik drilled a three, but Loncar kept doing the damage. However, Wood stripped Popovic, laid it up and added a catch-and-shoot three to bring it back on level terms at 59-59 with minutes to go. Wood’s layup was answered by 3 free throws from Chikalkin. Rancik somehow scored and drew a foul to push Treviso back ahead 64-62. Nicevic and Loncar exchanged baskets before Wallace’s steal and layup made it 68-66 with 1:15 to play. Kouziakine missed 2 free throws and some incredible turnovers followed in a frenzied finish. Popovic blocked Neal to give his team one last possession, but Popovic could not convert the last-second triple as Treviso celebrated a first important win to stars the Last 16 phase.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009