Tau Ceramica dominated Armani Jeans Milano 74-107 to take a step closer to the Quarterfinal Playoffs. Tiago Splitter was unstoppable in his first game back from injury setting the tone early as Tau took a double-digit lead in the opening period and never looked back. Tau improved to 3-1 in Group E and will have at least a share of the group lead depending upon Olympiacos’s result on Thursday against Asseco Prokom. Milano lost its second straight to Tau as it fell to 2-2 before traveling to Olympiacos next week. Splitter had 13 points and 2 assists to Will McDonald in the first period alone as Tau took a 16-31 advantage after 10 minutes and Milano never mounted a serious charge after that. Splitter finished with 19 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks to lead six Tau scorers in double figures – none of whom played more than 21 minutes. League-leading scorer Igor Rakocevic added 16 points, Pete Mickeal scored 15, McDonald 13, Mirza Teletovic 12 and Fernando San Emeterio 11. Hollis Price paced Armani Jeans with 15 points, David Hawkins scored 13 and Luca Vitali finished with 12.
Splitter made his impact felt early when he tipped in the game’s first basket and then fed McDonald for a basket-plus-foul. Price buried a three to get Armani Jeans on the scoreboard, but Mickeal did the same and then scored inside to make it 3-10. Baskets by Rakocevic and Splitter increased Tau’s lead to 12 before Vitali rifled in a three from the corner. Rakocevic’s three kept Tau in control. Pape Sow battled inside for a pair of baskets, but Milano had no answer for Splitter, who threw in a pretty reverse layup and then picked up a basket-plus-foul – Sow’s second – to further lift the visitors. Maurice Taylor came in for Sow, but he also could not stop Splitter, who reached 11 first-quarter points with a pair of free throws to make it 13-25. Price buried another three, however Splitter fed McDonald and then scored himself to give Tau a 16-31 advantage after 10 minutes.
Mike Hall tried to ignite Armani Jeans, however a Rakocevic triple and a Splitter basket kept the momentum with Tau. Splitter then fed McDonald twice as Tau stretched the lead to 20. Hall hit back from downtown and Hawkins added free throws, but a Sergi Vidal triple made it 25-45. Vitali heated up and drew Milano within 33-49, however Vlado Ilievski slowed the home team’s momentum when he drew a foul and netted 2 from the line and then San Emeterio finished a fast break to restore a 20-point lead. And Ilevski scored three the hard way to make it 33-56. Hawkins hit 2 free throws and after a Teletovic basket, Price also scored from the line. Jobey Thomas came close with a halfcourt prayer at the buzzer, but it bounced out as Tau took a 37-58 lead into the locker room.
Things didn’t get better for Armani Jeans at the start of the third period as Sow was called for his third foul and then Rakocevic hit from downtown and Splitter scored in the paint. Sow scored on the offensive glass and Hawkins hit a triple, but Rakocevic found Mickeal for an easy basket that kept Tau in control. Vitali pulled up for a three from the top of the key and Sow scored inside to bring Milano to 49-71. Mickeal free throws and a Teletovic triple helped Tau take a 49-77 lead. Mindaugas Katelynas scored inside and Thomas hit a three, but it was just a drop in the bucket against Tau’s offense. Vidal threw in a pair of free throws to give Tau a 56-81 lead at the end of the third period.
Joey Beard was called for an unsportsmanlike foul when he took down Vidal on the first play of the second half and a Teletovic slam on the ensuing possession put Tau up 29. Katelynas came up with a Milano basket and Thomas made 2 free throws, but there was no coming back now. San Emeterio drained a three that lifted the Tau lead past 30 and McDonald made it 60-93 from the line. Price fired in a triple, however Tau continued its march. A Stanko Barac free throw took Tau to 65-100. The margin would peak at 66-104 on a San Emeterio free throw as Tau celebrated a big win.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009