Tau Ceramica of Spain has shouted out a warning to Group D at the end of the first half of the regular season by blowing out visiting leader Ural Great Perm 112-84 on Wednesday in Vitoria, Spain. A matchup of two of the best frontcourts in the Euroleague was decided clearly in favor of Tau, which got 28 points from Luis Scola, 23 from Dejan Tomasevic and 12 from Fabricio Oberto. Those 63 points on the inside came despite Tau's obvious necessity to score there with top shooter Laurent Foirest unavailable due to sickness. Tau broke open what had been a thrilling game with an 18-7 run after halftime and never looked back. Last season's Euroleague runners-up have now raised their record to 4-3, tied for fourth place in the group with Scavolini Pesaro. Ural Great fell back into a 5-2 tie for first place with AEK of Athens and Partizan Belgrade, both of whom won on Wednesday.
The first half delivered on the thriller promised by this matchup. Ural started by shooting the lights out as it pulled out to an early 12-15 lead, but Tomasevic started dominating inside with four straight points that put Tau ahead 17-15. Tau was without its best outside shooter, Laurent Foirest, who had the flu and did not dress for the game. Ural's shooters came dressed and ready, however. Vasili Karassev erased the Tau lead with one three-pointer, and after Scola re-tied the game at 21-21 for the home team, the Ural point guard added another three at the buzzer to put the visitors up 21-24 after 10 minutes.
Karassev was already up to a trio of three-pointers and 11 points, but the Tau big men were warming up too. Scola, in particular, was unstoppable once he got going in the second quarter. Tau kept going inside, and Scola kept dancing pirouettes around the lane, scoring seemingly at will during a 14-8 run that put the hosts ahead 39-34. Scola teamed up with another youngster, Sergi Vidal, to extend that lead to 45-38 before a pair of three-pointers by veterans Sergei Panov and Anthony Bowie pulled Ural back within 47-44. Only Chris Corchiani's buzzer-beater from the corner gave Tau the breathing room it needed at the half, 50-44.
With Scola's 18 points leading the way, that was already a high score for a game between two teams known more for defense. Tau came back with both parts of its game after halftime, marrying the high-octane offense with a lock-down D during an 18-7 run that opened the second half. Almost all of it came on the inside, too, for Tau, as Tomisevic now pushed his point total over 20 and Fabricio Oberto got into the act. It started lookin ridiculously easy for Tau to score as Elmer Bennet delivered a series of alley-oop and other assists for dunks right below the Ural basket. The quarter ended as many full games with these two teams might, with a score of 82-63, and Tau in full control.
The fourth quarter became junk time, with the lead hitting 30 points at 104-74 and frustrations coming out in the visitors. It was logical. Everything had gone right for Ural, in both the Euroleague and the Russian League, until they got on court with Tau in Vitoria, Spain. They were still tied for first place in Group D, but a blowout loss had to have Ural wondering if the road ahead would be as easy as the one behind.
Wednesday, December 5, 2001