Benetton Basket Tamoil used a killer fourth quarter to retain its firm grip on first place in Group C when it downed visiting Le Havre 91-67 on Tuesday in Treviso, Italy. A very close game still after a few minutes of the final quarter turned into what looked like a blowout when Benetton rocketed to the finish line with solid scoring and tough defense late. At 3-0, Benetton is alone atop the group, while Le Havre is still looking for a first win at 0-3. Gary Neal led the winners with 15 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Domen Lorbek hit 4 three-pointers among his 14 points, while Sandro Nicevic posted 11 points, Radoslav Rancik and Andrea Renzi 10 each. Judson Wallace pulled 10 rebounds for the winners, too. T.J Thompson and Bingo Meriex had 15 and 13 points, respectively, for Le Havre. Meriex added 11 rebounds for a double-double, which Marcus Slaughter also achieved with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Merriex opened the debate with a fierce dunk and another basket inside, but Nicevic fed Rancik perfectly and Matteo Soragna sank the mid-range jumper for a 4-4 tie. Slaughter kept the guests in front until Neal scored 5 consecutive points for a 9-6 Benetton lead. Le Havre surged back ahead thanks to Merriex, again, and a three-point play by young Fabien Causeur, good for a 9-11 score. Benetton went back to big men Nicevic and Rancik and used the talent of Neal to escape again, 15-11. Le Havre struck back with 5 quick points and another lead change, but Benetton took it back at 19-18 after 10 minutes. Strong sank the three-pointer and Wallace a basket for an early 21-21 tie in the second quarter. Merriex kept working hard inside for Le Havre but Nicevic found his range. Slaughter drained a three-pointer and DeShawn Wood responded with a lightning quick drive and a lovely floater to give Benetton a 28-26 lead. Slaughter answered for Le Havre but Renzi's beautiful hook and Rancik's two-hand jam off a steal to send Benetton up by 33-29. After a timeout, Causeur's shot-clock beater from three was met by an equally spectacular triple from Wood. The home team was finding baskets from long range and it soon turned into a nightmare finish for Le Havre as Slaughter tipped in Renzi's second free throw to score in his own basket and give Benetton its biggest lead yet, 42-34, at halftime.
Benetton came back from the lockers with more intensity and Slaughter gave the hosts another basket by touching the rim. Le Havre trailed now by 12 but Merriex kept his team in the game with a triple and Slaughter redeemed himself, bringing Le Havre within 46-41. Soragna's jumper was then met by a splendid fade-away shot from Thompson. Both teams were misfiring until Merriex ending the scoring drought at 48-45. Benetton found some breathing space with a Lorbek corner triple and a Nicevic put-back hook, good for a 53-45 advantage. There were a few free throws before Soragna and Wallace swished back-to-back three-pointers for a good-looking 59-49 advantage for the home team, but Thompson found the time to trigger one last shot to reduce the gap to 59-52 after 30 minutes. Bojic responded to Nicevic with a three-point play to get Le Havre within 6 and everything to play for ealry in the final quarter. Le Havre kept believing and followed Strong and Thompson's points to within 4 of Benetton. But that's when Nicevic took over with a couple of power plays. Thompson stroked again from the arc but Neal and Lorbek hit triples themselves to re-establish a 10-point lead at 73-63 with 5 minutes left. Neal and Wood landed the knock-out punch with two crafty incursions through the Le Havre defense. Trailed by 14, could Le Havre come back in it? Nicevic and Renzi gave a clear answer with some aggressive defensive plays and a great combination on offense, meaning Benetton sere one step closer to the next stage of the Eurocup.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008