Tau Ceramica outlasted Lottomatica Roma 96-103 in overtime on Thursday night at the Palalottomatica in the Italian capital to win Group C. It was an exciting 45 minutes of basketball truly worthy of being the deciding game in the group. Igor Rakocevic stood tall with a career-high 31 points to lead head coach Dusko Ivanovic’s men, who improved to 7-2. Roma, which slipped to 6-3, will finish second in the group if it wins next week at Fenerbahce Ulker or loses by fewer than 9 points. Tau seemed to have the game won when it started the fourth quarter with 11 unanswered points from Rakocevic and Tiago Splitter to take a 68-78 lead. However the trio of Andre Hutson, Ibby Jaaber and Brandon Jennings led Roma back. The lead would change hands twice in the final minute before Luigi Datome tied the score with a basket. He missed the resulting free throw, but Mirza Teletovic missed from downtown at the other end to send the game to overtime. In the extra time, Pete Mickeal, Rackocevic and a fresh Will McDonald overpowered Roma and took Tau to the win and the group title. Splitter added 17 points and 4 blocked shots for the winners, Teletovic added 16 points, Pete Mickeal had 13 and 11 rebounds and Pablo Prigioni recorded 11 points and 5 assists. Jaaber led Roma with 20 points, Sani Becirovic and Hutson added 17 each, Jennings and Datome scored 13 apiece and Roberto Gabini had 10.
Jaaber started the scoring for the hosts before Rakocevic put Tau on the scoreboard. Prigioni was fouled shooting from downtown and netted all 3 free throws to give Tau its first lead, 4-5. Three-point plays by Splitter and Rackocevic increased Tau’s advantage to 6-11, however a pair of baskets by Hutson and third by Jennings carried Roma right back. Soon Jaaber got going with a triple and Datome followed suit as Roma went ahead 20-16. Another Jaaber triple and a Datome layup increased the gap to 8 before Prigioni responded from downtown to make it 25-20 after 10 minutes.
Teletovic took over at the start of the second period, scoring 7 points in a 0-9 charge to regain the lead. Even after Primoz Brezec got Roma going, Prigioni buried a three to make it 27-32. Becirovic tried to spark the home side only for another Teletovic triple to increase the lead to 6. Rakocevic kept Tau in control despite a Jaaber three-pointer. Gabini showed his power with a pir of baskets that cut the Roma deficit to 40-41. Sergi Vidal and Jaaber traded baskets and soon Becirovic matched Splitter free throws. Datome stepped up with the last basket of the half to give the hosts a 46-45 lead at the break.
Roma increased its lead to 5 on baskets by Jaaber and Jennings as the second half got underway, but Teletovic had the hot hand for the visitors and he fired in back-to-back triples to give Tau the lead. Rackocevic was fouled shooting a three and made 3 from the line, but Jennings answered back with a triple to tie the score at 54-54. Vidal hit from downtown before Becirovic and Rakocevic traded baskets. Splitter increased Tau’s lead to 56-60 from the line. Gabini stole the ball from Rakocevic and went coast to coast for a basket-plus-foul. Rakocevic pulled up for a baseline jumper, but Becirovic made a three and soon knotted the game at 62-62 from the line. Fernando San Emeterio made a three for the visitors only for Gabini free throws and a Brezec basket over Splitter to put the hosts on top. Prigioni drove and scored over Jennings, but drew a technical foul for demanding a foul from the referee. Becirovic made the free throws that would give Roma a 68-67 lead heading into the deciding period.
Splitter put Tau back on top with a basket over Brezec and on the next trip Splitter threw down a monster slam as Tau surged ahead. Brezec earned a technical foul after complaining about a foul call on the other end. Rackocevic converted the free throws to make it 68-73. He would add 2 more from the line and a three-pointer to cap a 0-11 run before Hutson ended a four-minute scoring drought for Roma with a short jumper. Mustafa Shakur increased the lead to 70-81, although Jaaber’s fourth three-pointer of the night and another Hutson basket inside restored Roma’s hopes. Tau head coach Dusko Ivanovic took a timeout, but that didn’t cool Roma down as Hutson corrected Jaaber’s missed three to make it a 4-point game. Angelo Gigli committed an offensive foul and fouled out, but Roma didn’t fret and a Jaaber steal led to a Jennings basket that made it 79-81. Splitter ended Tau’s scoring drought with a free throw, however Jennings attacked the basket at the other end, drew a foul and sank a free throw to get his team within 2 again. Hitson fed Jaaber for a wide-open layup and even though he missed, Mickeal arrived late and fouled him. Jaaber sank both to tie it at 82-82 with 50 seconds remaining. After a Splitter miss, Becirovic gave Roma a 1-point lead from the line. Mickael responded with a clutch triple to make it 83-85. With the game on the line, Hutson fed Datome for a basket-plus-foul. Datome missed the free throw and Teletovic missed a three at the other end to allow the game to go to an extra period.
Jennings rifled in a three from the corner to open the extra period. Mickeal scored inside for Tau, but Hutson matched him. Rakocevic stayed perfect from the line and Mickeal added 2 free throws as Tau went ahead 90-91. Hutson made free throws to put Hutson back on top. McDonald scored with a jump hook and after Hutson missed, Mickael extended the Tau lead to 3 from the line. McDonald buried a jumper and Rakocevic hit a long jumper to make it 92-99 as Roma started to lose hope. Becirovic made 2 free throws, however he had little help on the offensive end. Rakocevic took Tau past the 100-point mark with his 11th and 12th free throws of the night as the visitors took the game and first place in the group.
Thursday, January 8, 2009