Montepaschi Siena improved to 2-0 in Group A by routing Zalgiris Kaunas 84-64 before a delighted home crowd on Thursday night. Zalgiris came in looking for the upset and played hard during the first half, but the Italian champs proved to be too much on both ends of the court and confirmed they will be a major force this year in the Euroleague. The key to Montepaschi’s big victory was a 13-0 run to close out the first half after Zalgiris had fought back to within 5 points. Benjamin Eze led the winners with 16 points. Henry Domercant and Romain Sato added 15 and 13, respectively while Terrell McIntrye scored 9 points and dished out 7 assists. Marcus Brown had a game-high 17 points for Zalgiris. Dainius Salenga scored 13 and Travis Watson 10 in the losing effort.
The game opened with both teams firing away. Watson opened the scoring by working inside for the layup. McIntyre fed Eze for a dunk, but Brown sliced in for a floater off the glass. McIntrye responded by nailing a deep three. Watson bracketed a rim-rattling slam by Sato with two moves in the low post for 4 hard-earned points. But McIntyre slipped a no-look pass to Eze for a layup and David Hawkins opened up an 18-12 lead on a three-pointer from the wing. Zalgiris called timeout, but Domercent added another triple to push the advantage to 9. The visitors responded however. Salenga hit 2 free throws, Martynas Pocius drained a three-pointer and Mirza Begic scored a layup to cut the lead to 23-21 going into the second quarter.
Nikos Zisis worked his way to the basket for his first 2 points in the opening moments of the second quarter, but Salenga kept Zalgiris close with another three-pointer. Sato scored inside, Marco Carrareto added a field goal, and Denis Marconato hit a wide-open jumper to cap a 12-3 run by Siena. Begic stopped the bleeding with a layup to get the deficit under 10 points and Watson added 2 free throws seconds later. Zalgiris tightened its defense, but Watson came up empty on two straight possessions after working for position in the post. The Zalgiris big man then went outside and assisted to a cutting Mantas Kalnietis on a give-and-go for 2 points to make it 35-30. Sato banged home an offensive board and Eze hit 2 from the line to stymie the Zalgiris surge. Eze took over under the his goal with back-to-back blocks, and Montepaschi pushed out to a 48-30 advantage at halftime on three consecutive three-pointers by Tomas Ress, Domercant, and McIntyre that brought the home crowd to its their feet.
Montepaschi, with the contest well in hand, came out looking to lower the frantic rhythm of the first half and slow the game down. But after Begic made a free throw and an open jumper in the lane and Brown swished a three-pointer from the wing, Siena turned the attack back on full force. Eze scored inside and Domercant finished off a fastbreak with a layup to put the hosts ahead 54-36. Brown slid into the lane for a short jumper, but Salenga followed with a shot from the baseline. Domercant answered with a turnaround, and, after a quiet spell from both sides, Shaun Stonerook hit a three-pointer to make it 59-30. Brown made 2 from the line, but Hawkins and Eze made a pair of layups to break the 30-point barrier. Pocius got a dunk off a fastbreak, but Zisis gave his team a 63-44 lead by banking in a floater as time expired in the third period.
Both teams entered the final 10 minutes knowing that the game was out of hand for the visitors. Ress nailed an open three-pointer from the top of the key and Eze added a field goal. After a series of empty trips, Sato made a three-pointer to put the scoreboard at 73-44. Zalgiris could not find the bottom of the bucket till Arturas Milkanis finally hit a three-pointer with 6:30 left in the game. Brown made another triple moments later, but Montepaschi began to party when Ress hit Eze for a thunderous alley-oop dunk. Zalgiris outscored Siena 7-12 over the final minutes to cut the final difference down to 20 points. Adas Juskevicius made an athletic reverse layup and Tadas Klimavicius notched a three-pointer in Zalgiris’s last gasp.
Thursday, October 29, 2009