Montepaschi Siena advanced to the Top 16 in style by handing Zalgiris a 72-83 defeat in Kaunas, Lithuania, on Thursday night. With the convincing road win, Montepaschi improved to 6-1, remaining just one win behind Regal FC Barcelona in Group A. Next week head coach Simone Pianigiani’s men host Frech champion Asvel Basket. Zalgiris fell to 1-6 and needs to win at least two of its three last games, starting with the tough task of traveling to Barcelona next week, to have any chance of making the Top 16. David Hawkins led the way for the winners with 20 points. Terrell McIntyre had a 10 points and 9 assists, while Ksistof Lavrinovic notched 16 points to go with 6 boards. Benjamin Eze chipped in with 12 points and 7 rebounds as well. Travis Watson had a monster night for Zalgiris with 17 points and an amazing 17 rebounds. Ten of those were on the offensive end – 1 less than his own Euroelague record for most offensive rebounds in a single game. Tadas Klimavicius added 14 points in the losing effort. After Montepaschi built a 17-point lead by halftime, Zalgiris fought back to within 4 points early in the final quarter. However the Italian champs turned up the defense and secured the win on the strength of a 0-9 run to crush any hopes of a Zalgiris comeback.
Romain Sato broke the ice with a baseline jumper before Watson took a Dainius Salenga miss and scored. Montepaschi looked down low where Eze scored on the offensive glass and then off a pick-and-roll from McIntyre on successive possessions. Hawkins drove to make it 2-8 for the visitors. The lead reached 7 before Marcus Brown connected from downtown, but Eze remained a force on the offensive end. Watson dominated the offensive boards with two put backs to narrow the gap to 10-12. Shaun Stonerook buried an open three, but Salenga drove through the Montepaschi defense for a slam. Eze raced downcourt to answer with a dunk only to see Klimavicius hit a three that kept it close. Another Watson put-back kept the hosts within a basket, but Henry Domercant drained a three-pointer at the other end and McIntyre beat the buzzer with a jumper to make it 17-24 after 10 minutes.
Nikos Zisis came off the bench and found a way to the basket for a layup. Domercant sank a pair of free throws to cap a 0-9 run, but Marty Pocius beat him to the corner for a three-pointer. Mantas Kalnietis fed Klimavicius for a fastbreak slam and Zisis spotted an open Stonerook for an easy basket at the other side. Zisis set up Lavrinovic for a layup to give the Italian champs a double-digit advantage and Stonerook found a cutting Domercant for a slam as the lead grew. Watson sank a free throw and Klimavicius made a jumper as Zalgiris clawed its way back. Mirza Begic cut the gap to 29-36 before Hawkins made a free throw. Zygimantas Janavicius fed Begic for another score only to see McIntyre race to the other side for a layup. Hawkins soon sank 2 free throws to restore a 10-point lead. Lavrinovic drained a three-pointer and then padded the Siena lead from the line. With the half coming to a close, McIntyre provided a highlight with a steal and halfcourt buzzer-beating three to cap a 1-12 run that made it 32-49 at halftime.
Kalnietis opened the second half with free throws but Hawkins flashed his athleticism with a slam at the other end. A pretty high-post pass from Watson to Kalnietis resulted in a layup. Watson then scored down low and Kalnietis went coast to coast for a slam to trim the gap to 12. Following a Montepaschi timeout, Adas Juskevicius tipped in a Begic miss and then drained a three from the corner to cap a 9-0 push that made it 45-52. Hawkins ended the Montepaschi dry spell with a basket on an inbounds play. Both teams went to three-guard lineups, opening up the floor a bit. Kalnietis and Lavrinovic swapped threes before Klimavicus hit a scoop shot. Klimavicus continued to push the hosts and , sinking a triple to narrow the gap to 5. McIntyre stepped up with a triple from the corner and Hawkins capped a break with a slam to quickly restore a double-digit Siena lead. Watson slammed home a Juskevicius miss and then a confident Juskevicius hit a long jumper. Lavrinovic scored from the line, but Pocius cut the difference to 61-66 at the end of three quarter by banking in a floater from the lane as the buzzer sounded.
Sim-Sander Vene went made a free throw to open the fourth period for the home team and cut the lead down to just 4 points. Zalgiris tightened its defense, but could not capitalize on Montepaschi’s dry spell. Lavrinovic swished a baseline jumper to give his squad some breathing room. After another stop by the visitors on the defensive end, Hawkins drove hard to the bucket for a left-handed layup to force Zalgiris to call for time down 8 points. But the stoppage of play did not prevent Lavrinovic from dishing to Sato for an inside basket and Stonerook put the nail in the Zalgiris comeback by draining a three-pointer to push the lead back out to 13 points. Juskevicius made a pair of free throws to break the 0-9 Siena run, but Sato hit right back with a turnaround jumper. Lavrinovic continued showing off his playmaking skills by feeding Eze for a slam. Sato struck again inside off a nice pass from McIntyre and Zalgiris had to take another timeout to try and figure out how to come back from 16 points down with two minutes to go, a task which proved to be impossible.
Thursday, December 10, 2009