Two years ago this spring, Virtus and Tau Ceramica played in Basket City for a Euroleague title. On Tuesday in Group F, where both are already eliminated from Final Four contention, they played for fun, n and Tau had more than their hosts in registering an 85-110 blowout in a largely deserted PalaMalaguti. Tau showed intentions of getting ready for its upcoming domestic challenges from the opening tipoff, but it was shooting in a state of grace by Laurent Foirest which spelled the difference in the game. The veteran swing guard poured in 25 points, including 5 of 6 three-pointers and was key to an 0-16 Tau run that broke the game open right after halftime. Luis Scola added 18 points for the winners, Andres Nocioni 16, Sergi Vidal 12 and Ruben Wolkowysky 11. For Virtus, German Scarone led all scorers with 28 points, including 9 of 11 free throws. Dejan Koturovic added 14 points, Mladen Sekularac 13, Alessandro Frosini 11 and Derrick Dial 10. Tau's record improved to 2-3, while Virtus remains winless at 0-5.
Tau started the game going inside on offense and getting after Virtus on defense. Luis Scola scored 6 points as the visitors raced out to a 9-12 lead. Fortunately for Virtus, it had Mladen Sekularac in rare form. Working mainly on drives and drawing a pair of early fouls on Andres Nocioni, Sekularac scored his seventh point from the foul line to make it 11-12. Tau's early reenforcements sparked an 0-8 run now with steals and fastbreak baskets by Sergi Vidal, Jose Manuel Calderon and Nocioni. Behind 11-20, Virtus looked in trouble, but German Scarone hit the game's first triple to start a comeback. Sekularac dropped th enext two baskets, Alessandro Frosini, Dejan Koturovic and Derrick Dial their first each, and suddenly, at the end of the quarter, it was a close game, with Tau's lead cut to 24-26.
With the battle reestablished, new protagonists entered the fray in the second quarter. For Tau, the main one was Laurent Foirest, who not only put the breaks on Sekularac, but took over on offense too. At one point he scored 9 straight points, including Tau's first three-pointer, for a 34-37 lead. But what he was getting from the outside, Koturovic was matching on the inside for Virtus. The veteran center had 10 of his team's first 14 points in the quarter, including the basket that provided the first lead for Virtus, 38-37. The hosts would hit a high lead of 43-39 on a three-pointer by Yannick Gagneur before Tau started back. Foirest had another basked in a 0-6 run, then Vidal and another Thierry Gadou buried triples to close the half with the visitors ahead 49-53.
German Scarone lifted his point total to 14 with a three-pointer to open the second half. That seemed to point toward a close game the rest of the way. Not quite. With Scola and Foirest unstoppable, Tau scored the next 16 points to take over the scoreboard. After Scola scored 3 unanswered baskets inside, Virtus called timeout and tried a zone. Foirest greeted that with twin, back-to-back triples from either corner, and Scola added another inside basket to make it 52-69. Foirest added yet another triple - his fourth among 20 points up until then - before the quarter could finish with Tau in full command at 61-80.
Foirest and Scola remained on fire to start the final quarter, splitting all of Tau's points as the lead swelled to 65-88. The shoot-'em-up continued to the finish with the only real interest for the Virtus fans being the re-appearance of youngster Marco Belinelli, who put in a couple baskets, including a three-pointer after Tau had gone over 100 points on a layup by Nocioni. A triple in the final minute by Nocioni boosted the total to 110.
Tuesday, April 8, 2003