Tau Ceramica made it to the Top 16 in Group C by beating the Opel Skyliners 90-69 at home in Vitoria, Spain on Wednesday. Tau improved to 6-7 in the standings and mathematically made it to the next round due to its tiebreak advantages in any eventual ties involving Unicaja, sixth at 5-8. Meanwhile, the Skyliners dropped to 3-9 with no chance to make it to the next round. Travis Hansen led the winners with 21 points on 5 of 9 three-point shots. Luis Scola added 18 on 8-for-11 shooting, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks for Tau. Arvydas Macijauskas had 13 points, Tiago Splitter 11 and Kornel David 10. For Skyliners, Chris Williams had 18 points and 6 steals while Bernd Kruel added 14 points. The game was close until Tau punished a Skyliners zone with 5 threes in as many minutes of the third quarter, then added a 13-3 run to start the fourth and see its way to victory.
Tau struggled to score early, while Kruel's consecutive put-back baskets gave Skyliners a 0-4 lead. Macijauskas finally drilled a short jumper, but the hosts otherwise lacked concentration while committing 4 turnovers in 3 minutes. Calderon tried to change things with a three-pointer, while Kruel had to go to the bench with 3 fouls. A fastbreak dunk by Sergi Vidal gave Tau its first lead, 7-6, but the Skyliners reacted well. Miroslav Todic scored in the low post, Williams added a dunk off his fifth steal and Pascal Roller fired in a triple to put the guests ahead 11-17. Hansen woke up the hosts with back-to-back bombs from downtown, while Scola and David scored in the paint to cap a 10-2 run for a 21-19 edge for Tau after 10 minutes.
Tau failed to break the game early in the long, as Roller followed Williams' close basket with a six-meter jumper to tie the game, 23-23. The hosts had troubles to slow Williams, as he took over with free throws and a layup to make the guests regain the lead, 26-27. Tau could not find the way to the basket for more than 2 minutes until Kornel stepped up with a put-back layup, while Pablo Prigioni added a seven-meter three to put the hosts back in charge at 31-29. Only then Tau got back in track, as Scola scored twice in the paint while Robert Conley followed a coast-to-coast layup with free throws to boost the hosts to its biggest lead so far, 39-33. Hasan Ozkan fired in a corner three and Spyros Pantelaidis added 4 quick points, including a layup in penetration, to bring the Skyliners within 41-40 at halftime.
The scoring pace was slower early in the third and Tau got the most out of it. The hosts' man-to-man defense got more physical, while free throws by Scola and a put-back layup by Hansen gave Tau a 45-40 edge. The Skyliners went scoreless for almost 3 minutes until Kruel scored around the basket, but a red hot Hansen matched that with a power layup, forcing the guests to call timeout at 47-42. The Skyliners switched to 2-1-2 zone defense, but Macijauskas and Calderon punished it with one three-pointer apiece to keep Tau in charge at 53-48. Williams made it a one-point game with a long two-pointer, but Calderon fired in another triple and Macijauskas copied it soon after that to make the hosts stay out of trouble at 59-54. Hansen continued the three-point exhibition with his own shot from downtown to extend Tau's lead to 62-56 after 30 minutes.
Tau broke the game early in the final period, as Tiago Splitter became the team's go-to guy in crunch time. His basket-plus-foul ignited a 10-3 opening run in which he had 7 points and Macijauskas fired in his third three-pointer. The Skyliners called timeout once Hansen fed Splitter for a fast break layup which boosted Tau's lead to 72-59 with 8 minutes to go. The hosts worked well in defense now, while Hansen added yet another three for a 16-point Tau lead at 75-59. The Skyliners tried to get back into the game, but Scola beat the buzzer with a four-meter jumper and added another shot to seal the outcome, 79-63, with less than 4 minutes to go. Tau tried to provide some showtime in the final minutes, as Hansen nailed another three and Splitter scored back-to-back close baskets to seal the outcome and Tau's qualification for the Top 16!
Wednesday, February 02, 2005