Montepaschi Siena had to suffer until the last moments, but it finally pulled out a 77-72 home win over Pau-Orthez in Group C on Thursday. Montepaschi's record improved to 3-2, part of a three-way tie for third place with Unicaja and CSKA. Pau drops to 1-4 and ties for sixth with Partizan. Andrea Pecile came off the bench and led Montepaschi with 17 points, including those that established solid leads in the second quarter. Vladimer Boisa and Rimantas Kaukenas added 13 apiece and Benjamin Eze posted 12 plus 8 rebounds. For the visitors, Clint Harrison and Lonnie Cooper were the best scorers with 16 points each. T.J. Lux added 12 and Artur Drozdov added 11. Harrison hit a triple near the finish to get Pau as close as 76-72, Justin Hamilton sealed the win of the hosts with a free throw.
The match started very slowly as both teams played all 24 seconds to push the ball into the low post. That made Eze and Thierry Rupert of Pau the main characters early. The game caught fire when the defenses allowed some shots from downtown. Cooper opened the way for Pau, then Kaukenas answered for Montepaschi, although Drozdov followed him for the visitors. The hard battle continued in the paint. Eze scored again but was on the watching side when Lux answered to put Pau in front 9-13. Lux would go for 6 points a row, all on layups, but Pau still had just a 16-17 lead, because Boisa had hit a pair of jump shots for Montepaschi. Pau played physical and saw the payoff when Drozdov power-dunked for a 17-20 visitors' lead. Montepaschi still had time, however, with a dunk by Justin Hamilton and a basket by Shaun Stonerook, to take back a 26-24 advantage after 10 minutes.
As Pau struggled against Montepaschi's zone early in the second quarter, the home team struck gold Pecile. He came off the bench to drill 5 points in Mntepaschi's first real run of the game to boost the lead to 33-24. When Pau reacted, it did so with good ball circulation that let Harrison shoot from downtown. But the Pau defense could not stop Pecile, who added another 5 points for a double-figure advantage, 38-27. The visitors went to Lux to get them back in the game, but did not ignore the perimeter. Drozdov hit a triple and Harrison 3 free throws when he was fouled attempting one to get Pau within 38-37. The man of the quarter, Pecile, answered for Montepaschi from the arc before Eze finished the half with a three-point basket-plus-foul that left the hosts in charge, 44-37.
The first 4 minutes of the second half were spent trading baskets until Boisa stepped up with a couple in a row, one driving and one a jumper, to give Montepaschi a double-digit lead again, 52-41. It was gone in a flash, however, as Thierry Gadou autographed a triple while Cooper and Harrison shared 5 free throws that cut the difference to 54-49. Kaukenas was keeping Montepaschi ahead now, with 6 points over 3 minutes that restored an eight-point lead, 60-52. But his show was interrupted by Cooper's pair of triples, the second of which left a 62-55 scoreboard after 30 minutes.
Defenses dominated the early part of the fourth quarter, but Boisa on a layup and Kaukenas back at the free throw line preserved a 66-58 home edge with 5 minutes left to play. Pau squeezed out a pair of free throws to lower the difference, but then Marcelo Nicola buried a big triple that made it 69-60. When Harrison and Cooper, with another triple, got Pau back within 6 points, 71-65, Nicola was waiting again at the arc to make it 74-65 with under 2 minutes left. Harrison and Cooper still had 7 points in them, but Pecile and Hamilton made 3 of 4 free throws when it counted to finally kill the Pau threat and give Montepaschi its third victory in Group C.
Thursday, December 1, 2005