Montepaschi clinched a Top 16 berth with a big 83-71 home win over Tau Ceramica on Wednesday night. Terrell McIntyre matched his season-highs with 20 points and 7 assists plus 7 steals as all five Montepaschi starters scored in double figures. The win sees Montepaschi match Tau at 7-4 in second place in Group A. Two more teams – Olympiacos and Zalgiris – could join them in second with wins on Thursday, though Montepaschi has the tie-break advantage already in any potential ties that would decide qualifiers in the group. Tau has not yet secured a ticket to the next round, but will automatically advance if Zalgiris beats Union Olimpija on Thursday. Tau was in the game for much of the first half, but Montepaschi, which was playing without two of its biggest stars – the injured Ksistof Lavrinovic and Rimantas Kaukenas – controlled the tempo the whole time. The hosts slowly increased their lead throughout the third period until a Shaun Stonerook triple made it a double-digit margin and Tau never seriously threatened again. Igor Rakocevic continued to score often, but with Zoran Planinic a non factor until the final minutes and Pablo Prigioni finishing the game with 0 points and 0 assists, the high-powered Tau attack committed 19 turnovers and looked bleak and Siena took advantage. Romain Sato added 15 for the winners, Bootsy Thornton and Ben Eze scored 12 points apiece and Stonerook finished with 10 points and 7 rebounds. Rakocevic paced Tau with 23 points and 4 assists, while Tiago Splitter, who dominated early with 10 points in the first seven minutes, finished with 19.
Montepaschi won the opening tip, but after a missed Thornton three, Tau went downcourt and scored the game’s first points through Splitter inside. McIntyre soon got the hosts on the board with a three and Sato added one as the Montepaschi heated up. Rakocevic tied the game with free throws and the game remained close from that point, with Thornton active for the home team and Splitter dominating in the paint for Tau. Siena started to pull away first as a Stonerook triple gave the hosts a 17-14 advantage. McIntyre continued to control the tempo, first finding Eze underneath and then drilling a triple to increase the lead to 7. Simas Jasaitis came off the bench and sniped a triple for Tau. However the visiting backcourt took a hit when Zoran Planinic committed his third foul. Will McDonald’s bucket in the paint cut the gap to 28-23 after 10 minutes.
Rakocevic and Thornton traded hoops as the second period started with a slower pace. Four minutes into the period, Eze scored just the third basket of the quarter to put the hosts up 7. Jasaitis’s second triple of the game made it 34-30, but McIntyre dished to Vlado Ilievski for a basket-plus-foul as Montepaschi remained in control. On the other end, Eze swatted McDonald as the crowd got more involved. But Tau head coach Neven Spahija brought Splitter back in and he immediately came through with a three-point play. In the last minute of the period, Eze scored his 10th point of the game from the line to make it 39-33 at halftime.
Jasaitis scored to open the second half, but Stonerook stripped Planinic at midcourt and sailed in for a slam. Rakocevic beat the shot clock with a deep three to get Tau within 3, however Planinic remained a total nonfactor as he picked up his fourth foul. Meanwhile Thornton scored on the break to keep Siena ahead. Rakocevic has some words for the referee after he collided with Hector Romero, leading to a technical foul. After McIntyre converted the free throws, it was 47-39. A minute later, Stonerook’s second triple of the evening gave Siena its first double-digit advantage. Tau tried to regain its composure by using a timeout, after which Mirza Teletovic drilled a three-pointer. However Thornton also had a triple up his sleeve. New signing Keith McLeod scored his first Euroleague Basketball points from the charity stripe for Montepaschi. Teletovic countered with a two-handed jam in transition, but Ilievski matched him. McLeod finished the period with a triple to give the hosts a 60-49 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Rakocevic tried igniting his team with free throws, but McIntyre erased them with a three-pointer. Planinic scored his first point of the night from the line and Rakocevic added 2 more, but Siena seemed to have an answer each time. Planinic hit from the top of the key and Sergi Vidal did the same as Tau got within 69-62, but Sato hit a jumper and a three on Siena’s next two possessions to restore Montepaschi’s 10-point lead. McIntyre then hit a triple of his own to dash any hopes Tau had of a comeback. The playmaker had one more bomb left as McIntyre and co. celebrated the win. However the action wasn’t over as the hosts tried to eclipse the 15-point deficit from their loss to Tau earlier in the season. McIntyre hit one more three to make it 83-69, but Stonerook was called for an unsportsmanlike foul that stopped the Montepaschi momentum, Splitter threw down a slam at the other end and a missed-Sato three at the buzzer left the tiebreaker in Tau’s hands.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008