Montepaschi stepped strong into the Top 16 as it blew out visiting Cibona VIP 90-62 at home in Siena, Italy on Thursday in the first Group D game for both teams. The victory made Montepaschi a Group D co-leader at 1-0, alongside Maccabi Tel Aviv. Cibona was never in the game and dropped to 0-1. Montepaschi heated up snowy Siena with big leads that came early and stayed all night. Taking advantage of Cibona's lack of big men, Montepaschi center Roberto Chiacig bagged a powerful double-double of 19 points and 11 boards. Vrbica Stefanov added 17 points, including 5 of 7 three-pointers, and David Vanterpool 14 for the hosts. Marko Popovic led four Cibona scorers in double figures with 18 points. Gerald Fitch, Jurica Zuza and Josip Vrankovic added 10 points each for the guests.
After some missed shots started the game, Chiacig opened his way by dunking twice. Cibona was unexpectedly without center Marton Bader, and in his place, Josko Poljak soon committed 2 personal fouls and was sidelined. The team's newest big man, Zuza, arrived an made a layup, but Chiacig went on ruling in the lane with a basket-plus-free throw. Montepaschi led 9-2 after Stefanov finished a fastbreak. Cibona switched to a zone defence and tried to increase the tempo as Vrankovic scored on a high rainbow and Fitch sank the first triple. Stefanov answered from the arc, however, and Montepaschi kept ahead until it finished the first quarter leading 21-14.
Montepaschi took control with an 8-0 run to start the second quarter as Stefanov drilled 2 times from downtown and Vanterpool finished a break that made it 29-14. After a Cibona timeout, Branimir Longin came out with a powerful drive for a three-point play, but Montepaschi's defense regrouped as Benjamin Eze rose to block a shot by Poljak. On offense, Michalis Kakiouzis found spaces to score within the Cibona zone. The visitors stayed alive mostly thanks to Fitch, whose point total reached double figures on a triple that made the score 35-23. But then Montepaschi got 5 straight points from Vanterpool on the way to a commanding 45-28 edge at the break.
The second half was no different. Stefanov buried his fourth three-pointer in 6 attempts and Chaicig resumed scoring in a 9-2 run to start the third quarter. Cibona put the ball in the capable hands of Vrankovic, whose 6 points in a row combined with Popovic to cut the difference to 54-38. Cibona's 0-8 run ended, however, when Giacomo Galanda fired from downtown for Montepaschi. Popovic was getting loose now for Cibona, sinking an amazing no-look basket inside the paint, but even when he followed that with a triple, the score was still 67-45 at the end of three quarters.
In the final quarter, Montepaschi never allowed Cibona a chance to get back in the game. Indeed, the lead only increased with another fine start to the quarter, a 10-2 run that was punctuated when Kakiouzis hit a triple off a behind-the-back pass from Davide Lamma to make it 77-47. Then Luigi Datome came off the bench and got his first basket in spectacular fashion, stealing at midcourt and racing the other way for a dunk. Montepaschi could do no wrong and Cibona little right as the big margins persisted through the end of the game.
Thursday, February 24, 2005