Lietuvos Rytas outlasted Benetton Basket 79-85
Lietuvos Rytas outlasted Benetton Basket 79-85 in the second Eurocup quarterfinal on Thursday night in Turin, Italy, and is only one win away from making it to a third Eurocup final in the last five seasons. Chuck Eidson paced L. Rytas with 23 points, 8 rebounds and 3 steals including a crucial three-pointer that gave L. Rytas a 5-point lead with one-and-a-half minutes to go. Donatas Zavackas notched 16 points, Milka Bjelica and Marijonas Petravicius contributed with 12 points each and Mindaugas Lukauskis and Arturas Jomantas added 11 points apiece. For Benetton, Gary Neal scored 15 points in the first half, but cooled down after the break to finish with 18 points, C.J. Wallace netted 16 points and Massimo Bulleri had 12. Sandro Nicevic added 11 points to go with 5 steals and Radoslav Rancik matched him in scoring with 11 points for the Italian club, which was outrebounded 28-38. L. Rytas will clash with Hemofarm Stada in the first Eurocup semifinals on Saturday.
Zavackas opened the scoring with a triple from the top of the key, but Nicevic matched it with a three-point play on the next possession. Neal showed his smooth touch with a three-pointer from the left wing, before Jomantas came through with a layup in transition and then made a perfect cut and finished strong to help L. Rytas overtake the lead at 7-6. Bulleri made his trademark off-the-dribble jump shot, but soon committed his second foul and had to take a seat on the bench. Neal used the glass on a tough jumper close to the basket. Bjelica came off the bench and didn't need long time to score a layup, while Jomantas continued to penetrate with success. Neal hit another shot to make it 12-11 and then Nicevic split free throws and added a turnaround jumper from the left baseline. Domen Lorbek capped an 8-0 run with a three-pointer, forcing L. Rytas head coach Rimas Kurtinaitis to take a timeout. Wallace got Benetton more points with a layup, before Eidson finally stopped the bleeding with a triple that made it 20-14. Dashaun Wood beat the L. Rytas defense for a layup, and Nicevic matched Eidson’s shooting with a basket of his own. After Neal drilled a three-pointer for his 10th point of the period, Zavackas made a put-back to cut it to 27-18 after the 10 minutes.
Zavackas earned a trip to the line and hit both shots at the start of the second quarter, Eidson nailed a triple and Petravicius was wide open inside for his first basket of the game. All of a sudden it was 27-25 and now it was Benetton head coach Oktay Mahmuti's turn to ask for a timeout. Eidson converted a steal into a fastbreak slam and Mindaugas Lukaiskis connected from downtown to give L. Rytas its first lead since the middle of the first quarter,27-30. Rancik stepped up with a tough three-point play. Zavackas attacked the basket, but Neal was ready with a baseline jumper at the other end. Eidson drew a foul while shooting a three-pointer and made 2 of 3 for a 32-34 L. Rytas lead. Lukauskis hit an unbelievable three-pointer with a Benetton defender all over him and split free throws on L. Rytas’s next possession. Jomantas muscled his way through for a three-point play, widening the advantage to 32-41. Wallace answered with a pair of free throws, but Jomantas pulled down an offensive rebound and fed Petravicius for a hook. Bulleri made a free throw as Benetton tried to stop L. Rytas by switching to zone defense. Wallace was in position for a put-back, and after Eidson hit a perfectly timed jumper, Neal drove through the lane and used his impressive hang time to score despite being fouled, and made the free throw too. Zavackas scored 4 free throws with a Bulleri three-pointer in between them, and it was 43-49 at halftime.
Wallace showed his range with a three-pointer at the start of the third quarter, but Petravicius matched it with a three point-play and then drew Nicevic's third foul. The defenses were stronger than the offenses for the next couple of minutes, until Bulleri found space for a left-handed layup that made it 48-52. Petravicius scored inside, and though Wallace made a jumper at the other end, Bjelica rebounded his own miss to layin another basket for L. Rytas. Rancik made a spectacular block that led to a shot by Bulleri. Eidson attacked the basket, and Jomantas dished to an open Bjelica, who made it 52-60 and then came through with a power move to make it a 10-point game. After Wallace drilled his second triple, Petravicius and Rancik exchanged baskets, and L. Rytas was still in front at 57-64. Lukaiskis split free throws, but Neal connected on a triple. Lorbek flew in for a beautiful lay-in, and it was 62-65 and anybody's game with 10 minutes to go.
It was very loud and tense in the beginning of the fourth quarter, as no one could hit until Bjelica made 2 free throws and Nicevic split his at the other end. Lorbek scored on an acrobatic layup to cut it to 65-67. Neal attacked the basket to draw a foul, but got hurt and had to go out. Matteo Soragna came in to shoot the free throws instead of Neal and had the nerves to make both, tying the score at 67-67. Eidson put L. Rytas back in front with a pair of free throws and a fast break dunk. Rancik hit a triple and it was 70-71 with only four minutes left on the clock. Bulleri drew a foul to give Benetton its first lead since the beginning of the second quarter, but Eidson fed Bjelica inside. Then Rancik brought the crowd up to its feet with a powerful dunk. Lukauskis did the same with a three-pointer, putting L. Rytas up by 74-76. Eidson came up with another triple, and Benetton had only one-and-a-half minutes to erase a 5-point deficit. Rancik scored a free throw, but Jomantas ran away on a fast break. Nicevic scored from the free-throw line, but neither Nicevic nor Neal, who returned to the court, could get it to fall. Wallace dunked with 6 second left to cut it to 79-83, but that didn’t stop the celebration from the loud Lithuanian fans who made it all the way down to Italy.
Thursday, April 2, 2009