A game between a pair of shorthanded Group C teams went the way of the visitors on Thursday as Benetton Treviso came from behind to top Zalgiris 76-86 on the road in Kaunas, Lithuania. The victory helped Benetton hold onto third place with a 5-3 record while it doomed Zalgiris to a 1-7 record and last place. Benetton played without key starter Spencer Nelson at forward, while Zalgiris was missing point guard Marko Popovic as well as forwards Hanno Mottola and Paulius Jankunas. The lead went back and forth for most of three quarters until Angelo Gigli and Nikos Zisis sparked the visitors to comfortable leads they held the rest of the way. Marcus Goree led the winners with 20 points, while Gigli came off the bench for 16. Zisis put together a double-double of 16 points and 11 assists. For Zalgiris, Tanoka Beard scored 15 points, Jonas Maciulis 14 and Kirk Penney 12. Its 1-7 start matched the worst for Zalgiris in the Euroleague this decade.
Benetton took advantage of the missing Zalgiris starters with a dunk by Joey Beard and Bryant Smith scoring inside to start the game. Zalgiris got going as Beard hit a semi-hook and Vidas Ginevicius a coast-to-coast layup off a steal. Benetton continued to play at a fast pace but Zalgiris went with it and gained a 12-10 lead on baskets by Vladimir Stimac and Marcelino Machado following another steal. Benetton answered quickly with penetration by Nikos Zisis, which Angelo Gigli copied on the next possession, but Zalgiris found Kirk Penney open for a triple on the left wing. Stimac made 1 of 2 free throws before Gigli answered with a three-pointer that put the visitors ahead 20-21. However, the last word belonged to Mantas Kalnietis, who penetrated for a flashy basket that closed the quarter giving Zalgiris a 22-21 lead.
Terrell Lyday drove for a basket that regained the lead for Benneton to open the second quarter, but Maciulis took it right bck for Zalgiris at 24-23. Benetton answered with a 0-5 run that forced a Zalgiris timeout. The hosts returned more focused and Penney connected twice from downtown as Zalgiris bolted in front again, 30-28. Zisis drilled mid-range jumper in response, while Beard tipped in Penney's miss for Zalgiris as the lead changed hands again. Goree dunked and Smith finished a fastbreak for the guests, to which Beard responded by hammering down two dunks to put Zalgirs on top 38-36. Goree slammed now and hit another jumper over Beard, who then downed 1 of 2 free throws. Again Kalnietis finished by putting Zalgiris ahead, feeding Jonas Maciulis for a buzzer-beating triple that left a 42-41 scoreboard at the half.
Maciulis opened the third quarter with a free throws that was followed by Beard's layup. Zizis scored from the paint and fed Goree for an open triple that put Benetton back in front. Matteo Soragna drilled from the arc, but Penney did the same for Zalgiris to make it 50-51. Zalgiris hurt itself from the line as Stimac and Maciulis missed 4 free throws. Gigli and Maciulis exchanged three-pointers before Joey Beard of Benetton made his presence felt inside with a basket-plus-free throw that extended the visitors' lead to 53-57. Zalgiris turned to Darius Silinskis for a dunk, after which the hosts had a chance to tie, but Ginevicius now missed his free throws, too. Benetton took the opportunity to take off with triples from Marco Mordente and Gigli, although Marcelinho answered with 5 points in a row for Zalgiris. Zizis reached double figures in assists with a pass that set up a Goree jumper before Stimac hit a difficult layup to pull Zalgiris within 62-68 after 30 minutes.
Silinskis scored the first points of the fourth quarter for Zalgiris, but the hosts couldn't stop Benetton. Lyday connected from the outside and Joey Beard made an easy shot inside. After Maciulis got a point back for Zalgiris at the foul line, Kalnietis fouled out, leaving interim coach Rimantas Grigas with a very few options left. Tanoka Beard made his own path through the paint for a difficult basket and then Vytenis Jasikevicius, younger brother of Saruns, entered his first Euroleague game and charged the crowd with a flashy jumper. When Ginevicius hit a pair of free throws, Zalgiris was within 73-76. That, however, is when Gigli proved his was still hot, drilling his fourth triple. Zisis followed him with a bomb to widen the gap to 76-82 with less than 2 minutes left. It was too much for shorthanded Zalgiris and soon a layup by Soragna fixed a 76-86 victory for Benetton and left Zalgiris at the bottom of Group C.
Thursday, December 14, 2006