Eldo Napoli overcame injuries to prove it is ready to reach new heights this season by downing Benetton 64-70 in Treviso, Italy, in an all-Italian Group C showdown on Thursday night. Eldo Napoli improved to 2-5 and ended its three-game losing streak, joining Fenerbahce Ulker for sixth place in the group. Benetton, meanwhile, dropped to 4-3, and registered its first home loss of the season. The Italian champion is now tied with Pau-Orthez for third place in the group standings. Mason Rocca led the winners with 17 points on 6-for-7 shooting, 5-of-5 free throws and 9 rebounds off the bench. Michel Morandais added 16 points and 8 rebounds for Napoli. Marco Mordente had 15 points for Benetton, Nikos Zisis added 12, Terrell Lyday 11 and Marcus Goree 10 for the hosts, who were without an injured Spencer Nelson tonight. Benetton led 31-25 at halftime, but Morandais and Jay Larranaga helped Napoli to rally and take a 41-43 lead after three quarters. Alessandro Cittadini, Rocca and perfect free-throw shooting in the final 2 minutes allowed Eldo to return to Naples with a key road win.
After a sloppy start, the scoring started with a technical foul that resulted in free throws for Bryant Smith. Morandais tied it immediately, but neither team managed to get going. Morandais exchanged baskets with Lyday and Zisis to tie the game at 7-7 at the halfway point of the first quarter. Morandais pierced the home defense ending a 2-minute scoring drought for both sides. However, Mordente made an immediate impact after taking the floor, netting one from downtown. Soragna did the same and when Mordente canned from inside, it was 15-9. A three by Malaventura and a brilliant basket in traffic from Lyday ended a low-scoring first period at 17-12.
The crowd had to wait a minute-and-a-half before Simone Flamini got things started in the second with a three. A five-meter jumper from Lyday was followed by two free throws from Rocca. That’s when Goree started to make his presence felt with 5 straight points to make it a 7-point game, 24-17. Malaventura and Rocca combined to get Napoli within 3. After a quiet two minutes, Mordente broke the ice with a jumper. Benetton shut Morandais down, allowing it to pull away to 31-23 with a minute to go. Nerves started to take over on the Napoli bench as coach Pier Luigi Bucchi was shouting at the referees. A couple of free throws meant both teams went to the lockers with a 6-point advantage in favor of the home side, 31-25
Zisis opened the second half taking Larranaga off the dribble for a layup. Flamini made 1-of-3 free throws as the guests continued to struggle on offense. In the meantime, Angelo Gigli connected beyond the arc to give Treviso an 8-point advantage. A spectacular bucket by Tyrone Ellis and a three by Larranaga, however, got the visitors back in the game at 38-36, prompting coach David Blatt to call a timeout. Napoli was now in the foul bonus and Morandais took advantage coolly sinking a pair to tie the game. The contest was getting more physical as Napoli conceded four successive fouls, resulting in Lyday regaining the lead for Treviso from the foul line, 41-39. Smith was working hard on the offensive glass, but the visitors’ defense kept troubling Treviso. Cittadini's hook sent the game into a thrilling last quarter with the board showing 41-43.
Valerio Spinelli put the pressure on the home side straight away by netting a layup in transition. There were no open shots being allowed by the Napoli defense. Jeff Trepagnier silenced the crowd with a three, but Mordente responded. Cittadini pierced the defense to give Napoli a 6-point advantage. Mordente took a charge to stay in touch with two free throws, 46-50. Rocca and Lyday, off a Zisis feed, traded baskets, but Cittadini was badly hurting the hosts. Rocca created a made-for-TV-moment with a spectacular sky-hook, establishing a 50-56 margin with 4 minutes on the clock. When Rocca made a two-plus-one, the home side's hopes started to dwindle, 52-59. Morandais then went high in the air to make the jump shot. A last timeout from Blatt with a 10-point deficit and 90 seconds to go did not change the course of the game as Napoli scrapped its way through a much-needed victory to keep its hopes of Top 16 qualification alive.
Thursday, December 7, 2006