Benetton Basket Bwin stayed perfect in Group F despite playing on a tough away court, holding on to defeat PAOK 62-67 in Thessaloniki, Greece on Tuesday. Benetton is now 2-0 in the standings, tied for first place with Asefa Estudiantes. PAOK is winless along with Chorale Roanne of France. A 2-15 run in the second quarter gave Benetton the first of many double-digit leads that PAOK could never quite erase, despite coming as close as 51-54 early in the final quarter. Benetton's defense then decided what had been a defensive struggle much of the night. Donatas Motiejunas led the winners with 13 points and 7 rebounds, while his fellow big man Sandro Nicevic added 12 points, including key baskets late. Stefan Markovic directed the show for Benetton, finishing with 11 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists. For PAOK, veteran center Lazaros Papadopoulos had a massive double-double of 17 points and 17 rebounds. Justin Gray followed him with 13 points and Roberto Dozier added 10. Totals of 18 turnovers and just 4 assists hurt PAOK, however, despite the fact it scored more free throws and three-pointers than Benetton.
The big men on each side - Papadopoulos for PAOK, Nicevic and Motiejunas for Benetton - treded baskets until Stefan Markovic tied with a triple and Greg Brunner hit the go-ahead layup at 7-9. Benetton's defense held PAOK scoreless 3 minutes before Donnie McGrath's three-pointer took back the lead, although Brunner again restored it for the visitors on the last basket of a defensive first quarter, for a 10-11 score. The scoreboard kept flipping as Papadopoulos dunked for a 14-13 PAOK advantage before Devin Smith, Brunner and Massimo Bulleri answered with a 0-6 run for Benetton. Only free throws by Papadopoulos fell for PAOK while the visitors got 4 points from a new scorer, Jakub Wojciechowski, in a new 0-9 run to suddenly boost the difference to 16-28. Dozier and Georgios Dedas revived PAOK with 8 quick points to lower the difference to 24-32. Nicevic kept scuoring enough to keep Benetton well ahead, 26-35, at the half, however.
Motiejunas took over with 6 points early in the third quarter to extend Benetton's lead. When he and Markovic detonated back-to-back dunks, the visitors were rolling again, ahead by their biggest margin, 28-46. Gray joined the PAOK scorers to trim the difference to 35-46, but Motiejunas answered that by blasting a triple. Papadopoulos returned with a late layup and Dedas a triple to finish the third quarter with Benetton still in charge, 42-50. The hosts followed Gray's free throws and a bucket by their big man, Papadopoulos, to make it a 46-50 game early in the final quarter. Markovic and Nicevic responded for Benetton, but when Gray's shot from the arc went through, it was 51-54, as close as PAOK had been in a long time. With the home crowd trying to help PAOK rally, Nicevic downed a key basket while the Benetton defense resisted long enough for a jumper by Smith and a triple by Ryan Toolson to break the game open at 53-62 in the next-to-last minute. Dozier helped PAOK get some of those points back in case they are needed in resolving the group standings later, but the victory was flying with Benetton back to Italy.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010