Benetton Gioco Digitale registered its first win in Last 16 Group K and set a do-or-die battle for first place next week by edging previously undefeated Bizkaia Bilbao Basket 68-72 on the road on Tuesday. Benetton improved to 1-4 but had already ran out of chances to reach the Quarterfinals. Meanwhile, Bilbao dropped to 4-1 and lost the chance to clinch first place in Group K. Bilbao, that was already qualified before the game, can afford a 20-point loss against Panellinios next week and still finish first. Sandro Nicevic led the winners with 14 points. Daniel Hackett added 12, Davor Kus and KC Rivers each added 11 while Jasmin Hukic had 10 for Benetton. Marko Banic had 14 points for Bilbao while Chris Warren added 11. Kus and Hackett shined early in the game and back-to-back jumpers by Nicevic gave Benetton a 15-18 lead after 10 minutes. Janis Blums led a 12-0 run that gave Bilbao its biggest lead of the night, 46-36, right after the break. Nicevic and Hukic fueled the guests' comeback and a three-point play by Donatas Motiejunas gave Benetton a 55-58 edge. A three-pointer by Warren tied it at 65-65, but free throws by Nicevic, a big triple by Hukic and a game-deciding jumper by Rivers sealed the outcome down the stretch.
Warren got Bilbao going with a three-pointer but he didn't find much help around in the opening minutes. Hackett answered from downtown and Motiejunas soon gave Benetton its first lead, 3-5. Hackett kept pacing Benetton with a layup and Motiejunas scored again to cap a 0-9 Benetton run. Bilbao went scoreless for 4 minutes, missing 4 shots and committing 3 turnovers until Axel Hervelle and Jerome Moiso stepped up with consecutive baskets. Kus silenced the crowd with a three-pointer and a layup by Rivers gave Benetton a seven-point lead, 7-14. Warren and Blums tried to change things with consecutive triples but back-to-back jumpers by Nicevic kept Benetton ahead at 13-18. Free throws by Warren brought Bilbao within 15-18 after 10 minutes. Banic found his first points early in the second quarter and a three-pointer by Javi Salgado completed the hosts' comeback, 20-18, after a 7-0 run. Banic followed a put-back layup with his trademark mid-range jumper but Rivers kept the guests as close as 24-22. Salgado downed his second triple and a layup by Ronnie Seibutis sent the crowd to their feet at 29-22. Kus stepped up with a jumper, igniting a 0-9 run in which Rivers and Andrea De Nicolao struck from downtown to put Benetton back ahead at 29-31. Seibutis joined the three-point shootout and soon added free throws to give Bilbao some fresh air at 34-31. A layup by Rivers fixed the halftime score at 34-33.
Motiejunas split free throws immediately after the break and a jumper by CJ Wallace restored a 34-36 Benetton edge. Bilbao had dramatically improved its defense and Benetton could not find open shots now. Meanwhile, a three-point play by Javi Rodriguez and free throws by Banic provided another lead change, 39-36. Banic kept pacing Bilbao with a layup and Blums struck from downtown in a 12-0 run that Rodriguez capped with free throws to give his team its first double-digit lead, 46-36. Benetton found a go-to guy in Kus, who followed free throws with a three-pointer. Hackett soon added a layup in a 0-9 run that Nicevic capped with an easy basket, good for a 46-45 Benetton deficit. Hervelle stepped up with a three-point play and Moiso added a layup but Nicevic and a three-pointer by Hukic tied it at 51-51. Moiso and Hackett traded jumpers for a 53-53 tie after 30 minutes. Hackett scored again early in the fourth quarter and a three-point play by Motiejunas gave Benetton a 55-58 edge. Benetton excelled in defense early in the fourth quarter and a jumper by Nicevic kept the guests ahead, 56-60. Banic rescued Bilbao with a layup that Hukic erased with a jumper. Alex Mumbru hit free throws and Banic scored again to get the hosts within 62-63 with under 3 minutes left. Nicevic sank a jumper but Warren answered from downtown to tie it at 65-65. Nicevic stayed on fire with free throws and a big triple by Hukic sealed the outcome, 65-70, already in the final minute. Blums answered from downtown but a jumper by Rivers allowed Benetton to seal the win in style.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010