Benetton Treviso made good on its second home game in as many weeks to take over first place in Group E on Thursday with a 96-90 defeat against relentless visitor Skipper Bologna. Marcelo Nicola hit the key three-pointer with 16 seconds left to seal the victory in a game that neither team wanted to let slip away. Benetton improved to 2-0 for the maximum advantage before it takes its game on the road when play resumes in two weeks. Skipper fell to 1-1, good for a tie with Barcelona, who had stopped Scavolini (0-2) on Wednesday. Benetton led by double digits early, but Skipper was back in the game by halftime and from there it was neck-and-neck until the finish. Benetton's high pace forced 23 steals out of Skipper and helped ensure the victory. Tyus Edney and Bostjan Nachbar scored 25 points each, most of those in the first half, to lead the winners, while Nicola finished with 15. Davor Marcelic, who tried to shoot Skipper into the winner's circle at the end, led his team with 21 points. Gregor Fucka and Gianluca Basile added 14 each.
Edney took over the show at the beginning the game, pushing the pace to high speeds, scoring three layups and and assisting Nachbar on a slam dunk as Benetton took a 10-4 edge after 3 minutes. Jorge Garbajosa was already defending Gregor Fucka well, denying him the ball in the low post and pushing him far from the paint. If their defense is solid and produces running opportunities, Benetton is difficult to stop, as Edney proved again with assists to Nachbar and Pittis for a 22-12 lead. By that time, Nachbar was up to 9 points, Edney 8, but when the two went to the bench for a rest, Skipper made an immediate 1-9 run to close within 23-21. The battle was joined again. Benetton responded with a 5-0 run but Pittis missed two free throws and Marcelic scored on an offensive rebound before the quarter ended with Skipper having cut the double-digit lead all the way down to 28-26.
Edney, who already had 11 points, wanted more as the second quarter started. He fired up the home crowd again, capping a 7-2 run with a dunk that made it 35-28. Nachbar was his running mate, taking advantage of Skipper's offensive difficulties to throw down his own fastbreak slam for a 42-33 lead. Skipper decided a zone defense was best, and the decision worked. The visitors outscored Benetton 2-8 over the next few minutes to set the scoreboard at 44-41. Both teams found it tough getting the ball to go in over the last part of the first half, but Benetton managed to boost the difference to 6 points, 51-45, going into the break. By that time Edney had 16 points and Nachbar 15 for the locals. Marcelic and Emilio Kovacic were on 10 points each for Skipper.
With Benetton lax on the defensive end, Skipper started the second half with Basile and Meneghin driving to the rim and getting the visitors within 53-51. Worse still for the Greens, Garbajosa suffered a right ankle injury after four minutes, during which time the home team posted just four points. Skipper, meanwhile, was finding open shots and hitting them. Meneghin scored a long-distance rocket for 57-56 on the scoreboard. Now, Benetton turned on the light thanks to its newest player, the young sensation from Georgia, Nicholoz Tskitishvili, who made a two-handed block on Kovacic and open the way for the fastbreak, which Edney finished with a three-pointer for a 64-56 lead. The Benetton run continued to 12-2 with a final underhand layup by Riccardo Pittis making it 69-58. In the last minutes of the quarter, Skipper found just free throws by Zoran Savic while Benetton had Sergei Chikalkin scoring his first points in the game and drawing a flagrant foul by Andrea Meneghin. The period ended with Benetton still enjoying a double-digit advantage at 75-64.
Two baskets early in the fourth quarter by Marko Milic could only pull Skipper within 77-68, after which there were two minutes without buckets. Pittis assisted Nachbar for another dunk and a new important lead, 80-68. Ginaluca Basile made his own incredible jump to score for Skipper, but came down with an ankle injury in the middle of the quarter. The game was not over. Gregor Fucka pulled down an offensive board for a three-point play to make it 81-73, starting a 2-9 run that included two long-distance baskets, by Marcelic and Fucka. The scoreboard read 83-82 with 4:16 to go. Anything was possible! Soon, Marcelic was making the jumper for Skipper's first advantage, 83-84. From there it went back and forth, emotions following emotions with the lead changing several times, Edney and Marcelic dueling. Denis Marconato made a key rebound when he took a jump hook posted by Kovacic off the rim with a minute to go. Nicola sealed it for Benetton, however, getting off his three-pointer just before the end-of-possession buzzer and watching it fall through with 16 seconds left for a 92-87 lead. The foul shooters, Nachbar and Marconato, did the rest, and Benetton was leading Group E.
Thursday, March 7, 2002