A battle for exclusive hold on first place in Group F was all about the visitors on Tuesday, as Benetton Bwin turned back Asefa Estudiantes 71-80 on the road in Madrid to break what was a tie of undefeated teams entering the game. Benetton improved to 3-1 and is in striking distance of a Last 16 qualification, while Estudiantes fell to 2-1 prior to the same two teams meeting next week in Treviso, Italy. Better shooting and a huge 38-18 rebounding edge was the difference for Benetton, which got 5 three-pointers and 22 points from Devin Smith. Alessandro Gentile followed with 10 points, while Donatas Motiejunas and Greg Brunner had 9 each, the latter doubling up with 10 of those rebounds. Estudiantes saw Tyrone Ellis score 11 of his 12 points in the first quarter, including 3 three-pointers, but his team hit just 1 more shot from downtown after that. German Gabriel came off the bench to lead the hosts with 14 points while Nik Caner-Medley had 10, but not even a 17-point edge in free throws could save Estudiantes from its huge rebounding disadvantage.
A three-point shootout broke open on the game's first basket, from Ellis, who was quickly matched by Devin Smith, whose subsequent two-pointer forged a quick 7-7 tie. Ellis broke that with his next triple, and when Hrvoje Peric tied it up at 11-11 for Benetton, buried his third in 6 minutes to answer. Smith was just as ready, however, and on a fourth-chance possession, hit his own triple to spark an 0-8 burst that Massimo Bulleri ended from the arc with Benetton up 14-19. Ellis teed up again, but got "just" 2 free throws out of it, while Bulleri got his long-range shot off - and landed it, of course - as Benetton won a wild first quarter, 18-26. Jakub Wojciechowski's 3 baskets to open the second quarter meant a double-digit lead, 22-32, for Benetton. Gabriel and Daniel Clark revived Estudiantes with 7 points between them, cutting the difference to 29-34. Brunner's dunk and a three-point play by Smith let Benetton get away to 31-40, but Gabriel and Sergio Sanchez, with a triple, narrowed the gap again before Clark and Jayson Granger pulled Estudiantes to within 39-42 at halftime.
Jiri Welsch's jumper and a Josh Asselin's three-point play off a dunk catapulted Estudiantes to a 44-43 advantage soon after halftime. Sandro Nicevic, Smith and Donatas Motiejunas answered for Benetton with the next 9 points, however, to take control again. By the time Peric rejoined the scoring, Benetton had withstood the hosts' surge on its way to a 52-60 lead after 30 minutes. Gentile from downtown and Peric inside kept the Benetton run going to the game's biggest lead, 52-65, early in the final quarter. Welsch, Sanchez and Caner-Medley reacted, getting Estudiantes closer at 59-67. By the time Caner-Medley made back-to-back baskets on either side of the five-minute mark, Estudiantes was in striking distance of the lead at 65-69. That's when Smith reappeared with a triple, followed by Gentile hitting a layup and a dunk to make it a safe 67-76 advantage for the visitors, who were well on their way to the top of Group F by then.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010