Despite missing a starter, Tau Ceramica put on a show of dominance for its home fans in Vitoria, Spain on Tuesday by blasting Alba Berlin with a 106-65 victory in Group C. Tau remains the group's undefeated leader at 3-0 while Alba, which was missing its top scorer in Julius Jenkins, who was injured, fell hard to 1-2. In retrospect, most remarkable was the fact that the two teams were tied 24-24 after one quarter. Tau broke that tie with a masterly six-minute, 18-0 run and went on to amass 63 points in the middle quarters alone to run away with the victory. If Tau's win was symphonic in its breadth, the conductor was Igor Rakocevic, who has started the season in a state of grace. Rakocevic scored 27 points with 6-for-6 three-point and 7-for-7 free-throw shooting while dishing a team-high 5 assists in just 25 minutes on the floor for the winners. Five of his teammates - Sergi Vidal with 17 points, Mirza Teletovic with 14, Tiago Splitter with 13, Stanko Barac and Will McDonald with 10 each - joined Rakocevic in double figures. Tau made almost two-thirds of its shots from the field and missed only one free throw while piling up 22 assists - all despite missing injured starter Pete Mickeal. Alba simply struggled after rallying from 9 points down in the first quarter to tie. It was all downhill after that, however. Ansu Sesay led Alba with 11 points, while Immanuel McElroy and Aleksandar Nadjfeji had 10 each.
Both teams went inside early, Tau to McDonald and Stanko Barac before Alba did the same with Sesay and Adam Chubb to tie 4-4. Hamann scored inside for Alba's first lead, but Rakocevic erased it with a triple at 8-6. Prigioni's defense unhinged Alba and Rakocevic was automatic from downtown to make it 13-6 before McElroy ended the bleeding for the guests. Barac's next shot was answered from long-range by Steffan Hamann. Prigioni beat the shot clock with his own triple, but Sesay matched it. Rakocevic hit free throws and Splitter a tip-in as Tau ratcheted up the pace, but Logan, Nadjfedji and Cadsey Jacobsen drove strong to keep Alba within 24-21. Then, with the shot-clock expiring near the end of the quarter, Rashad Wright launched an open triple from the wing to complete a 0-9 run for Alba that forged a 24-24 tie after 10 minutes.
The unstoppable Rakocevic went to the hoop and buried a triple restore Tau's lead at the start of the second quarter. But there was plenty more to come from him and his teammates. Splitter added a rolling turnaround and assisted Teletovic on a dunk while Rakocevic sank 3 of 3 free throws to keep Tau's run going. Next as Tau's run reached 12 unanswered points and its lead 36-24. Teletovic and Rakocevic then buried twin triples to make it 42-24 as Alba struggled to find a safe spot on the court. Finally, after Tau's 18-0 run on the chin over 6 scoreless minutes, Sesay smoothly dropped a three-pointer for the guests. An exchange of baskets ensued before Teletovic returned with another blast from the arc and a steal-and-dunk combo before Vidal put the finishing touches on a stellar quarter after which Tau was in command at 58-38.
The Tau avalanche picked up where it left off before halftime. In less than 3 minutes, Rakocevic buried two more triples while feeding Teletovic and Splitter for inside baskets, the latter with a free throw attached, that boosted the lead to 69-42. Rakocevic was still perfect from downtown and the free throw line for the game, and now he worked on his assists total by finding Vidal for a three-pointer at 72-44. Alba seemed not quite to believe what was happening as Vidal raised up for another triple before Mustafa Shakur and Splitter detonated dunks to make it 81-48. The visitors scored some themselves, but the points were lost in Tau's torrent as the third quarter closed 87-54 with Tau having scored 63 points in the previous 20 minutes.
Neither did the hosts calm down in the final quarter. Even with Rakocevic, Teletovic and Splitter seated on the bench, Tau took off on an 11-2 start and then hit the 100-point mark on a dunk by McDonald. No more proof was needed, so the teams exchanged a few baskets down the stretch as Tau gave its fans the gift of another impressive victory while Alba headed home to try to figure out what went wrong.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008