The return of Benetton was completed in devastating fashion on Wednesday with a 98-56 dismantling of Idea Slask Wroclaw at home in Treviso for the fifth consecutive win by last season's Euroleague finalist. The victory meant that Benetton had completed its comeback from an 0-2 start to finish the first half of the regular season at 5-2 and tied for first place with Efes Pilsen and Pamesa Valencia. As Idea Slask coach Muli Katzurin commented afterwards, his team wasn't used to seeing the defensive intensity Benetton unleashed while doubling the visitors' point total before halftime. A scoring party with four players over a dozen points each included a new face among Benetton's offensive leaders, forward Guilherme Giovannoni of Brazil, who nailed 6 of 7 three-pointers among his 24 points in just 19 minutes. Tyus Edney added 18 points for the winners, Massimo Bulleri 14, Maurice Evans 13 and Denis Marconato 12. Most impressive were Benetton's 24 steals, including 6 by Riccardo Pittis, 5 each by Giovannoni and Bulleri. Benetton was also able to hold Euroleague leading scorer Lynn Greer to 15 points, almost 10 fewer than his average. Only Adam Wojcik, with 10 points, could also reach double-figures for Slask.
Slask opened the game trying attack the basket with frequent penetrations, but met a wall of Benetton defenders. Dominik Tomczyk made one basket to put the visitors on the board, but Benetton responded with a 12-2 partial built on strong defense and quick fastbreaks. Wroclaw watched Evans race for basket after basket, ending the quarter with 9 points himself. Slask's points came as hard as Benetton came easy, as the hosts raced ahead 22-8 in just 5 minutes. After the fastbreaks came the three-point shots, with Edney collecting a pair before Marcelo Nicola entered to add 5 quick points for Benetton. The first quarter ended with formidable 31-12 scoreboard for the Polish guests to contemplate overcoming.
Benetton started the second quarter by tacking on a couple of fastbreaks, while Greer tried to take on the whole Benetton defense with penetrations from the left side. It was obvious that Slask's most difficult task was finding easy shots, especially since its long-distance attempts were all missing. When Evans added 3 new points, Benetton was up 37-16. Wroclaw found some answers from Ryan Randle, but it was clear that offense was not going to flow easily for the guests. Benetton didn't have that problem as Giovannoni entered and right away drilled 2 quick three-pointers. The score continued to run up as Bulleri combined with Giovannoni to give to Benetton a 54-26 advantage after the first half.
Halftime did Slask little good, as the guests tried to improve the situation with no visible results in the third quarter. Greer continued to fight his lonely battle against the Benetton defense, and just when Wojcik found a couple of baskets in the paint, he also commited his fourth and fifth fouls, depriving Katzurin of one of his most valuable options. Benetton continued to play its game, accumulating fastbreak points and forcing Slask to commit turnovers. A flagrant foul whistled on Radoslaw Hyzy did not even help Slask find more aggressiveness on defense. On offense, Talen Tein found a three pointer and Randle scored more, but the result was never in doubt with Benetton leading 76-40 at the whistle ending the quarter.
The fourth quarter quickly became something of an exhibition, with both teams trying to end the game as fast as possible without getting any dangerous injuries along the way. Giovannoni stole the show from his more famous teammates by sending in more three-pointers, not to mention some fine passes to his teammates. Greer, once again, challenged the whole Benetton defense. Benetton coach Ettore Messina could empty his bench and give precious minutes to Uros Slokar and Manuchar Markoshvili while the fans got plenty of time to celebrate an early holiday present that was a piece of first place that seemed far away from Treviso only a few weeks ago.
Wednesday, December 17, 2003