Bennet Cantu bested Zalgiris 79-78
Bennet Cantu came back from a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat Zalgiris Kaunas at home 79-78 in a Top 16 thriller in Group H of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague. The game went to the wire and was decided when Georgi Shermadini went to the line with 3.2 seconds left and the score tied. He made the first, missed the second intentionally and Zalgiris’s desperation heave at the buzzer missed. Gianluca Basile paced the hosts with 15 points, Shermadini had 12 points and five other Cantu players had at least 7 points as the host team improved to 1-1 in the group. Vladimir Micov collected 8 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists for the winners. Zalgiris dropped to 0-2 in the group despite 15 points from DeJuan Collins, 14 by Sonny Weems and 12 from Marko Popovic. Robertas Javtokas chipped in with 8 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks in a losing effort.
Javtokas opened the scoring for the guests and the lead was 0-4 after Vytenis Lipkevicius’s fast-break layup following a steal. Denis Marconato got Cantu on the board with a basket off the glass. Weems matched his point total from last week in the initial minutes in pushing the lead to 2-6. After neither team could capitalize on offense for a couple of minutes, Maarten Leunen stripped the ball from Weems and hit a break-away lay-up to trim the deficit to 4-6. Dainius Salenga and Paulius Jankunas knocked down back-to-back triples and the Zalgiris advantage was up to 6-12. After a three-point play by Shermadini, Popovic nailed a long ball to push the gap to 9-15. But Basile and Nicolas Mazzarino drained treys on consecutive possessions to knot the game at 15-15. And Greg Brunner’s lay-in off the glass gave Cantu its first lead of the night at 17-15. Shermadini then hit a jumper and assisted on a layup by Nico Gianella as Bennet led 21-17 after one quarter.
Weems was credited with a basket on a goal-tending for the first score of the second period and Weems and Lipkevicius raced back for fast break lay-ups for a 21-23 lead, which Cantu erased with a triple by Gianella for a 24-23 scoreline. The lead went back and forth three times before Basile banked in a long three-pointer with the shot clock winding down for a 29-27 Cantu lead. Collins hit a jumper to even the game again and then Salenga hit a high heave three-pointer just before the shot clock expired for a 29-32 Zalgiris lead. Basile answered with another long ball to even the game again but Collins hit a driving lay-up and then Weems nailed a fall-away jumper just before the buzzer as Zalgiris went into the locker room ahead 32-36.
Zalgiris hit the first basket of the second half with Javtokas putting in a reverse lay-up and then Mantas Kalnietis converted a driving lay-up for a 32-40 advantage for the team from Kaunas. Javtokas put back an offensive rebound to open a 32-42 gap – the first double digit lead of the contest – before Andrea Cinciarini nailed a triple from the right side to trim the deficit to 35-42. Javtokas hit another inside basket and Jankunas nailed a jumper to maintain a nine-point lead – 37-46. But Leunen scored three points and Basile hit a long two to bring Cantu within 42-46. Weems responded with a three-point play and Collins nailed a triple from the left wing for a 42-52 cushion – and a Cantu time out. The hosts came out of the break with a fine inside basket by Brunner but Collins’ two foul shots re-established the 10-point lead. Marconato and Basile combined for three free throws to get within 47-56 and were helped by Tadas Klimavicius missing all four of his free throws. But the Cantu bench was called for a technical and Popovic made both free throws and then nailed a long three-pointer for a 12-point lead – 47-59. Marconato made a basket to trim the deficit to 49-59 after three quarters.
Cantu opened the final period with a jumper by Manuchar Markoishvili only to see Salenga drain another three-ball. Markoishvili was called for a technical foul and Popovic made two free throws to increase the gap to 13 points – 51-64. Markoishvili bounced back with a jumper and then Leunen hit a triple from the left wing to bring the hosts within 56-64, forcing a Zalgiris time out with seven minutes to play. Klimavicius stopped the run but Mazzarino nailed a triple and Micov made two free throws to cut the margin to 63-66. After a Cantu defensive stop, Markoishvili raised for a jumper and converted the foul shot to even the game at 66-66 with 4:30 remaining. Kalnietis was not fazed and nailed a three-ball to Kaunas a 66-69 lead. A Micov lay-up was matched by a basket by Milovan Rakovic for a 68-71 Kaunas lead. After two Shermadini free throws, Rakovic missed a jumper and then was called for an unsportsmanlike foul against Shermadini, who made both free throws and Basile converted two foul shots on the possession after the unsportsmanlike for a 74-71 Cantu lead. In a battle of nerves at the free throw line down the stretch, Zalgiris’s Collins and Popovic and Micov and Mazzarino for Cantu all made both free throws for a 78-75 Cantu lead with 8 seconds left. Weems was fouled with 5 seconds remaining and he made the first free throw and intentionally missed the second, getting his own rebound and hitting the jumper to knot the game at 78-78. But Kalnietis fouled Shermadini on the in-bounds pass with 3.2 seconds left and the Georgian made the first free throw but missed the second. Popovic got the rebound only to see his heave from half-court fall well short, and Cantu secured the come-from-behind victory.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012