Halfway through the Top 16, the upper hand in Group E belongs to Montepaschi Siena following an impressive 70-85 victory on the road Wednesday against Skipper Bologna. A flurry of three-point shots in the third quarter sent Montepaschi on its way to victory and confirmed its unbeaten status after three games. Skipper faded as the game progressed and as a result is now 1-2, behind both Montepaschi and Panathinaikos in the standings. Montepaschi's great collective performance was led by Mikalis Kakiouzis, who hit for a floor-high 20 points. He was followed by Mirsad Turkcan with 19 points, Alphonso Ford with 15 and Dusan Vukcevic with 12. Skipper got 13 points each from Emilio Kovacic and Gianluca Basile, while Lubos Barton added 11.
Due to the absence of injured forward Carlos Delfino, Skipper lined up young Stefano Mancinelli to guard Alphonso Ford from the start. Montepaschi began with a 0-4 run on points inside by Chiacig and Turkcan, but Gianluca Basile and young Mancinelli responded with a three and a slam dunk on the break to put Skipper ahead 5-4. The scoreboard stayed tight until Skipper dug a four-point gap, 16-12, on another basket by Mancinelli. Chiacig cut that with a three-point play for Montepaschi, but Lubos Barton stepped on court and nailed a triple to make it 19-15. Skipper was playing with a lot of intensity and went to Mate Skelin to broaden its lead to 21-15, and that six-point advantage held until the first 10 minutes had concluded.
A steal by Dusan Vukcevic launched Mikalis Kakiouzis on an easy fastbreak that ended in a dunk to start the second quarter. That would be Montepaschi's only basket for awhile, however, as Skipper twin towers Emilio Kovacic and Skelin shut off the paint to the visitors. Kovacic hit a fade to make it 23-17, and after a series of misses by both teams, tried to take over the game. The veteran center went strong to the rim for the next 6 points, also, and in doing so gave Skipper the first double-digit lead of the game, 27-17. Montepaschi hadn't scored in 3 minutes, but even when Turkcan stopped the slide with a dunk on Ford's assist, Kovacic answered with his 10th point of the second quarter. Ford now unleashed a triple for Montepaschi and then assisted Kakiouzis on another strike from the corner that suddenly cut the deficit to 29-25 and forced a Skipper timeout. After Vukcevic hit a jumper, the comeback of guests was delayed a moment by Barton's layup. The cat-and-mouse game continued as Vukcevic drove for 2 points, Giacomo Galanda got them back for Skipper. But then Kakiouzis dunked and Vrbica Stefanov tied it up for Montepaschi 33-33. Kakiouzis made a steal at halfcourt and from the foul line did the honors of giving the visitors a 33-35 lead to take into the locker room at the half.
The second half started with Barton hitting a jumper to tie the score for Skipper, who switched to zone defense to protect against foul troubles. Stefanov gave back Siena the lead, but Basile hit a three on a pick-and-roll play that took it again for Skipper at 38-37. Galanda was now sanctioned with a flagrant foul. Vukcevic hit both free throws and Ford gave a great assist to Kakiouzis for a 38-41 Montepaschi edge. Barton stopped the slide again, but Kakiouzis made another dunk on the break. Repesa went once again to Kovacic, but Vukcevic hit another three for guests, now ahead 40-46. Scepanovic responded from beyond the arc, but Siena was on fire and Turkcan got back the six-point lead with his own triple, prompting a Skipper timeout. After that, however, Vukcevic came off a pick and drilled another from downtown, making it 43-52. After Skelin made a couple of free throws for Skipper, Turkcan hit Montepaschi's fourth three-pointer in as many minutes to secure a 10-point lead, 45-55. It was all Skipper could do, with Basile making a layup at the buzzer, to keep the Montepaschi advantage in single digits, 49-57, after 30 minutes.
Montepaschi's lead didn't stay down for long. Ford opened the last quarter with a two-plus-one play, and Turkcan added a with a free throw to make it 49-61. It was Ford time now, and with his fastbreak layup-plus-free throw, the visitors ran away to 50-64. Gianmarco Pozzecco tried to stop the slide with a three, and Kovacic added a couple of free throws to limit the damage to 9 points, 55-64. But Kakiouzis stabbed Skipper with another three, and after Galanda fouled on a rebound, Turkcan hit a free throw. Basile showed a captain's pride in nailing a three and adding a steal that Kovacic scored on the break to make it 61-68. Vukcevic fouled out on the following possession, giving Skipper a chance to reduce the deficit further, but Pozzecco suffered a key turnover and Stefanov converted a layup. Galanda's jumper with 5 minutes left made it 63-70, but he fouled out right away. Kakiouzis hit both free throws, and made a steal for an easy dunk that put Montepaschi in the clear at 63-74. Turkcan hit a fadeaway jumper that settled it and meant that Scepanovic's three-pointer for 68-79 was too late for hosts.
Wednesday, March 19, 2003