Armani Jeans Milano remained alive in the race for the Top 16 with a wire-to-wire 73-59 home victory over Partizan Belgrade in Group D on Wednesday. Milano entered the game in last place but pulled even with Partizan in the group with a 3-5 record. Both teams will share in a three-way fourth-place tie after Efes Pilsen and Panionios On Telecoms, both 3-4, break their own on Thursday. Milano started the game strong and finished it in fine fashion. A 12-3 lead gave the Italian hosts early control, although Partizan got back in the game with a 4-14 run spanning the first two quarters. After the hosts held Partizan to just 6 points in the third quarter, however, the guests never rallied again as Milano's lead hit a high of 19 points midway through the fourth. Luca Vitali scored 14 points for the winners, as did Joby Thomas, 12 of his coming in the first quarter. David Hawkins added 12 points and Mindaugas Katelynas chipped in 10 points and 9 rebounds. Milano made 32 of 43 free throws compared to 16 of 26 for Belgrade while the hosts out-rebounded Partizan 42-29. Milenko Tepic was the only Partizan player to score in double figures with 19 points while NovicaVelickovic and Zarko Rakocevic each had 9.
Hawkins opened the scoring with a layup for hosts. Thomas hit a jumper and Yohann Sangare's three-pointer made it 7-0. Aleksandar Rasic answered right back with a three pointer to make it 7-3. But Partizan had problems shooting early on. Hawkins hit a jumper off the glass, and after Jan Vesely missed his third and fourth foul shots of the first quarter for Partizan, Hawkins made two free throws to push the lead to 12-3. Belgrade made just one of its first 10 shots, including 1 of 6 from long range. Tepic finally ended the guests' struggles with a jumper from just inside the arc to make it 12-5. Thomas pushed the lead to double digits for the first time with a three-pointer from the right wing which Tepic followed with a fine left hand hook in the lane. But Thomas knocked down another three-ball - this time from the left wing - for an 18-7 advantage. Uros Tripkovic drained a triple before a baseline jumper from Hawkins and a mid-range jumper by Thomas made it 22-10. And Thomes hit two free throws for Milano's biggest lead of the game thus far at 24-11. Tepic delivered a nice pass into the lane for Slavko Vranes only to see Vitali make two foul shots to re-establish the 13-point lead. Tepic, however, made it 26-16 with a three-ball just before the end of the first quarter.
Vranes hit from close range to start the second quarter at 26-18. A technical foul was called on Partizan coach Dusko Vujosevic and Vitali made two free throws. Pape Sow turned the ball over on the ensuing possession with an offensive foul and then was called for goal-tending on Strahinja Milosevic's basket to make it 28-20. Partizan was really working hard defensively to slow down the Milano offense. Thomas hit two foul shots for a 30-20 lead. But Tepic made an inside lay-in on fine pass from Velickovic and completed the three-point play. Vranes blocked a Sow shot and Vesely finished with a layup and Velickovic's two free throws trimmed the deficit to 30-27 and finished the 4-14 run spanning the first two quarters. But Massimo Bulleri's mid-range jumper just before the 5 minute mark was Milano's first basket of the second period to make it 32-27. Rakocevic and Mason Rocca swapped layups before Velickovic made two fouls shots to cut the deficit to 34-31. Katelynas tipped in an offensive rebound and hit the foul shot to complete the three-point play for a 37-31 advantage. After Stephane Lasme hit a layup on the break for Partizan, Sow missed a thunder dunk but the hosts grabbed the long offensive rebound and Marco Mordente nailed a long three-pointer to make it 40-33. Hawkins and Velickovic each made a free throw to cap Milano's 7-3 run with a halftime score of 41-34.
Hawkins opened the second half with a three-pointer that re-established a 10-point lead at 44-34. Partizan again struggled to execute offensively and Michael Hall's jumper made it 46-34. Tripkovic finally scored Belgrade's first basket of the second half at the 6:29 mark to cut the game to 46-36. Vranes missed two free throws and Rocca pushed the lead back to 13 points with three foul shots on six attempts for a 49-36 cushion. Velickovic made a hook shot and Lasme hit a tough basket in the lane but could not convert three-point play to trim the margin to 49-40. After 2 Vitali foul shots, Milosevic missed a pair of inside attempts after a fine pass into the lane and then Mordente hit free throws. Katelynas continued his fine game with a tip-in off a Sow miss and Mordente's two free throws with no time left on the clock finished an 8-0 run for a 57-40 advantage after three quarters - the biggest lead of the game to that point.
Both teams struggled in the early going of the fourth quarter and the first basket came at the 7:25 mark on Tripkovic's layup after a drive along the left baseline to make it 57-42. But Vitali answered right back with a jumper for the hosts. Tepic hit two foul shots but Sow dunked home after a fine interior pass from Katelynas to make it 61-44 and two Katelynas foul shots pushed the lead to the largest of the game at 19 points for 63-44. Partizan refused to give up and Rakocevic made two foul shots and a layup and Tepic converted two layups to cut the deficit to 65-52 with less than 3 minutes left. Belgrade grabbed three offensive rebounds on its next possession but could not convert and Mordente and Vitali combined for three free throws. Rakocevic converted a three-point play after a reverse layup to make it 69-57 but Katelynas entered double figures with a high flying layup and Vitali finished the scoring with two free throws.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008