Just when it needed one most, Benetton Treviso registered an important home win against Unicaja, 72-62 in Group C on Thursday. The victory lifted Benetton to 4-3 and a share of second place in the group standings with Panathinaikos and Ulker. Unicaja dropped to 2-5 and is tied for last place with Pau-Orthez and Opel Skyliners. Using its zone defense to perfection, Benetton held Unicaja just 8 points in the second quarter and never looked back on its way to victory. Unicaja suffered 3-for-24 three-point shooting that prevented its various comeback attempts from reaching completion. Massimo Bulleri led four Benetton scorers into double digits by tallying 17 points that included 3 three-point shots. Matteo Soragna chipped in 14 points, Paccelis Morlende 11 and Denis Marconato 10 for the winners. Jorge Garbajosa, going against his former team, was the scoring leader of the game with 23 points and registered a double-double by also collecting 11 rebounds for Unicaja. J.R. Bremer and Stephane Risacher added 10 points apiece for the visitors.
Francisco Vazquez assisted Bremer on a layup to open the scoring, and soon, when Risacher slammed following a steal, Unicaja had a 2-6 advantage. Bulleri punished a change to zone defense by the visitors with a triple before Marcus Goree gave Benetton its first lead, 7-6. Having been given a standing ovation by his former fans during the player introductions, Garbajosa got his first points with a jumper from the corner. Unicaja let Morlende get loose off a pick-and-roll to drill a three-pointer and he soon extended Benetton's lead to 18-11 with free throws.Garbajosa unfurled a three-pointer, assisted by Vazquez, but missed another on the buzzer, leaving a 20-16 scoreboard after 10 minutes.
Benetton opened the second quarter with a 2-3 zone defense meant to control the rebounds, and it sparked an 11-0 run, highlighted by 5 points from Bulleri, that turned the game around, 31-16. Marlon Garnett soon found a mid-range jumper that raised the difference to 16 points, 33-17, as Unicaja worked hard for baskets against the zone. Soragna stole the ball for 2 easy points, and Unicaja moved the ball well to get Garbajosa a triple from the corner as the first half finished with Benetton still in command, 35-24.
Back from the lockers, Risacher and Marconato exchanged baskets and then Carlos Cabezas finished the fastbreak for Unicaja that cut the difference to single digits, 37-28.. Marconato used all his experience against Vazquez to reach his 10th point of the night, but committed his fourth foul helping on a Garbajosa penetration. Soragna chipped in a triple on the 24-second buzzer, but Unicaja was defending better now and that led to a 0-7 run that Cabezas capped from downtown to cut the difference to 42-36, the lowest since the end of the first quarter. Pepe Sanchez nailed a full-speed layup, extending the Unicaja run and making the score 46-42. Bulleri scored a pair form the foul line and Cabezas missed a long-distance attempt as the board read 48-42 after 30 minutes.
Having experienced offensive trouble in the third quarter, Benetton started the fourth by aligning its zone defense again, and again it paid off. Suddenly, Goree converted a three-point-play and Bulleri drove the rim to take another double-figure advantage, 53-42. Garbajosa and Bremer combined on 6 quick points for Unicaja, but Bulleri and Goree almost matched them to hold the lead at 58-48. Marconato came back and pulled down a defensive board to launch Bulleri for a mid-range fastbreak jumper. Benetton's zone slowed the pace of Unicaja's attack, but when Garbajosa pulled down his fifth offensive rebound, the hosts changed defenses after a timeout. Soon, Soragna nailed a mid-range jumper to push the lead to 65-53, then with less than 2 minutes left, sealed the win from beyond the arc, sending the Trevisa fans home relieved.
Thursday, December 16, 2004