Tau Ceramica will retain its share of the lead in power-packed Group B after defending its home turf on Wednesday with a 90-85 win over willing but unable Montepaschi of Siena. A barrage of three-pointers in the early fourth quarter broke open what had been a close game for Tau. The Argentine duo of Luis Scola and Andres Nocioni proved the perfect inside-outside combo for the winners. Scola finished with 31 points, making 12 of 19 two-pointers. Nocioni was right behind with 24, including 4 of 5 three-pointers and 10 rebounds. Dusan Vukcevic tried to answer Tau's torrid shooting himself and finished with 18 points for Siena, including 4 of 5 from downtown, while Roberto Chiacig provided the inside punch with 18 more, though most of those came in the first half. Tau's record improved to 3-0, while Siena fell to 1-2.
That the visitors had a game in them everyone knew and they proved in the first 10 minutes in Vitoria. Chiacig ruled inside as Siena rolled out a 5-14 lead with him scoring 6 points without a miss. Mindaugas Zukauskas was the other early gun for the visitors, hitting a three among his 6 points, but as it turned out, they would be all of his points for the night. That turned out to be the same story for Leandro Palladino, who popped off the bench for Tau, however, and quickly landed two long-range shots to put Tau back on relatively even ground. Scola was somewhat quiet until then, but his 2 free throws brought the home team almost to even at 19-21 after 10 minutes.
Tau's comeback was complete and the lead finally belonged to the home team at 23-21 after inside baskets by Rashard Griffith and Scola to start the second quarter. The teams then settled into a basket-for-basket stretch, with Chiacig remaining the steady scorer for Siena while Scola added more and more for Tau, with help from Griffith. Scola and Nocioni did their first double shot of the night to give Tau a decent lead at 34-29, but Mirsad Turkcan and Giancarlo Marcaccini drilled a three-pointer each and Alphonso Ford got to the hoop as Siena took back the scoreboard at 36-37. Hanno Mottola appeared now for a free throw, and appropriately enough, the teams hit the half tied 37-37
A fast-paced third quarter started with Nocioni and Scola scoring 5 points each for Tau, but Siena was ready to trade baskets. Chiacig, Turkcan and Curtis McCants had one each before Vukcevic downed a triple to keep the visitors within 49-48. Nocioni added a three, but Macaccini answered in kind, and it looked like things might go that way through 40 minutes. But now, Jerome Allen put his stamp on the proceedings, stepping out twice in row for Tau and landing his own triples from downtown. Next scola hit a shot to reach 20 points and Tau had its biggest lead of the quarter at 61-55. Vukcevic was ready with his own long-range bomb, however, and the lead was cut to 61-58 with 10 minutes to go.
Tau made the first half of the final quarter decide the ballgame. First it went inside to the hot hand of Scola, who put down two quick shots for a 65-60 lead. Now, whenever Siena's defense dropped low to stop him, Scola sent passes out to a three-point shooter. The first was knocked down by Jose Manuel Calderon, the second by Nocioni, the third by Mottola and the fourth, once again by Nocioni. Scola scored another two in the middle of those four three-pointers, and it all added up to a 14-5 run that put the lead at 79-66 with 5 minutes left. Although Siena did well to get back as close as it did at the end, the outcome itself was never in doubt after that barrage.
Wednesday, October 23, 2002