The first of many battles in Group A that will go down to the wire ended on Wendesday in Treviso, Italy with a pair of key three-pointers lifting Bennetton to a 98-94 victory in overtime against visiting Unicaja Malaga. Benneton players new and old stepped up, with veteran Marcelo Nicola nailed the first three, to erase a 91-92 Malaga lead and newcomer Sergei Chikalkin hitting the second to seal the victory. The main contributors for Benetton were Jorge Garbajosa with 26 points and Chikalkin with 18. Unicaja got 24 points by Milan Gurovic and 17 by Philipps.
Tyus Edney was sidelined with injury for Benetton and Paco Alonso was filling in for Unicaja coach Boza Malikovic, whose father passed away earlier Wednesday. Even without Edney, Benetton started the game running and shooting threes to an 18-12 edge after six minutes. That lead ballooned to 26-14 at the first-quarter buzzer with a total of 20 points from its inside guys, led by Nicola contributing with 8 and Denis Marconato with 7. Unicaja began the second period with a tougher defense and a 0-6 run, but Chikalkin and Garbajosa rebuilt the advantage for Treviso. Canya Abrams and Chuck Kornegay started making things happen inside for Unicaja, and a three-pointer by Carlos Cabezas pulled the Spaniards within 7 points, but suddenly the Malaga defense went soft and Benetton finished the first half with a 45-32 lead.
Malaga was another team in the third period and immediately closed within three on a Gurovic three-pointer followed by a pull-up jumper. Twice, however, Bostjan Nachbar slammed the ball through on dunks. The game was getting really interesting. It was a moment without defensive intensity and both teams scored easy baskets, Benetton in transition and Unicaja on the offensive glass. With two free throws scored by Cabezas, with just five seconds to go, Unicaja arrived close at the end of the period on the 67-64.
Benetton was in trouble after that 22-32 partial in the third period and didn?t start the last period with the right intensity and Unicaja was only a point away, 67-66. But now Garbajosa playeda great defense on Danya Abrams, forcing a bad shot, and with 7 unaswered points pushed Benetton to a 74-66 advantage. The game was on fire and Benetton was back on "D" but Unicaja wasn't finished. A 5-0 Malaga run put the scoreboard at 74-71 with 3:30 to go. Then nobody scored till a basket by 22-year-old Mario Stojic. Gurovic missed the three-pointer to earn the lead. Stojic stayed hot, sinking a three to push Unicaja further behind, 79-74. Chikalkin, usually golden at free throws, missed the eighth in a row and Mostapha Sonko scored on the buzzer the three-pointer for the 86-86 tie.
Benetton forward Jorge Garbajosa
"They tied the game at the last second, and it was difficult to play five minutes more, but we played very well. We played well without Tyus Edney and it was very important for us to win our first game at home in the Euroleague"
Benetton coach Mike D'Antoni
"The most important thing tonight was to win. We have suffered, maybe we were lucky in the overtime but I think that Benetton merits the game. Suddenly without Edney, we had one day only to use Pittis to be our playmaker. The match was already woin after 20 minutes, but some mistakes in defence obliged us to play another game and try to win twice. Stojic was very important for his contributiion on defense, Garbajosa was solid, Nicola played pretty well, not only shooting, and Marconato had srong impact in area. Chikalkin made one mistake from the charity line: without that, he would be perhaps the hero of the match but I like very much his game. Our greatest error? To prefer the triple and not to feed balls under the basket."
Unicaja forward Milan Gurovic
"We have slept 20 minutes and we woke up too late: In the Euroleague, you must work 40 minutes. If you are lazy in defense, they punish you. Benetton tonight was not better than us but they play all the match, we only half: their victory is right."
Wednesday, October 10, 2001