The only undefeated team from the Eurocup regular season stayed that way as Bilbao Biskaia topped host Benetton Basket 69-76 to open Group K of the Last 16 for both teams on Tuesday. Bilbao and Panellinios are now tied at 1-0 atop the group, while Benetton joins Brose Baskets at 0-1. Several minutes of shutout defense after Benetton had taken its only lead after halftime proved the difference for Bilbao. So did 15 points in the second quarter alone for Janis Blums, who made 4 three-pointers in 7 minutes and finished with a game-high 22 points. Marco Banic followed with 13 points and 7 rebounds for the winners. Javi Salgado added 11 points, including 5 in a key late run to save the victory, as did newcomer Axel Hervelle. Benetton got 18 points from Gary Neal. Donatas Motiejunas pleased the home crowd with 17 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 assists while Jasmin Hukic scored 13.
It was a toe-to-toe battle from the very start as Javi Rodriguez for Bilbao and Hukic for Benetton opened the game with three-point bombs. There were three more ties in the next minutes before Bilbao seemed to surge on layups by Chris Warren and Marko Banic at 9-12. A lead change was coming, however, as Motiejunas, Gary Neal and Hukic combined for the games next 7 points, while C.J. Wallace and Davor Kus added 2 free throws each to push Benetton in front 20-14 after 10 minutes. Bilbao followed Blums and Moiso to a second-quarter revival. That duo owned the floor with the first 8 points, including a triple by Blums, as Bilbao tied 22-22. Javi Salgado joined in with a pair of baskets around another three-pointer by Blums, who finished out the quarter completely on fire. Blums launched and hit 2 more shots from long-distance, including one on the buzzer, to give him 15 points in 10 minutes and Bilbao a 35-42 lead at the break.
Blums opened the second half with free throws before Daniel Hackett, Motiejunas and Neal mounted Benetton's response, an 11-2 run to tie it all up again, 46-46. After Banic and Motiejunas exchanged baskets, Jasmin fired Benetton back in from from downtown, 51-48. Banic took over, however, with the game's next 6 points as the Bilbao defense blanked the hosts for more than 3 minutes to lead 51-54 after three quarters. Bilbao extended its advantage on a three-point shot by Hervelle to open the final quarter, but Kelvin Rivers immediately did the same for Benetton. Hervelle and Motiejunas kept the scoreboard close at 58-61, before Alex Mumbru tried to let Bilbao escape with a big triple. Neal and Hukic reeled the guests back in, however, cutting the difference to 62-64 headed into the game's last 2 minutes. That's when Salgado reappeared, drilling a three-pointer and free throws in a 1-7 run that proved the difference in sending Bilbao home as a road winner to open Group K.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010