Tau Ceramica completed a climb to the top of unpredictable Group D with a solid 75-85 road win at co-leader Scavolini Pesaro on Wednesday. The Spaniards couldn't have picked a better time to strike, as with the unexpected help of Oostende simultenously knocking off AEK in Belgium, Tau now sits atop their group at 8-4. Tau took command early and guarded double-digit leads through much of the game. Again, Tau did it without injured point guard Elmer Bennett. Another veteran, Chris Corchiani, stepped in and led the winners with 15 points and Charles Byrd came off the bench for 10 points in 9 minutes. They were balanced inside by Luis Scola and Dejan Tomasevic, who each had 13 and helped Tau dominate on rebounds, 22-37. Tau exploded on offense from the opening whistle and coupled their offensive power with an aggressive defense that held the home team without a single field goal the whole first period. Scavolini slowly found its footing and little by little nibbled away at Tau's lead behind Marko Tusek, who led all scorers with 18 points. They drew closest in the final five minutes before Tau could put the game out of reach. Scavolini now drops into a three-way tie for second place at 7-5 with AEK and either ASVEL or Ural Great, depending on tomorrow night's outcome between those two teams.
Scavolini started the game having difficulty with its usual plays because Tau knew its opponents' attacks perfectly. Tau chose to play slow but looked for good options although their shooting accuracy wasn't very good and after 4 minutes the score was only 1-4 for the guests. After 5:20 the home team still hadn't scored a basket, only three free throws. Despite a timeout called by coach Stefano Pillastrini, Tau's 3-10 run grew into a 5-14 lead. The Spanish team did appear to start having occasional trouble against the 3-2 zone proposed by the Italians in the last part of the period. The first quarter ended with the score 9-18 and without a basket (0 for 9 from the field) by the home team, whose only points came on 9 foul shots from the stripe.
The game took on a tougher tone at the start of the second quarter. Marko Tusek seemed to ring the wake-up bell for Scavolini, but Tau followed suit and continued to dominate underneath. Tau's first two defensive mistakes of the match produced a full 180-degree momentum swing as long-distance shots by Brad Traina and Misha Beric brought Scavolini to within six, 21-27, midway through the period. Beric appealed to the fans for noise and the subsequent yelling and singing made the arena come alive! Scavolini's zone closed well on the Spanish shooters but suffered in the paint against Luis Scola and Dejan Tomasevic, who single-handedly increased the lead to 25-35 with two minutes to go. The teams went to the locker rooms with 33-47 on the scoreboard. Tusek's 11 points led all scorers while Tomasevic and Andres Nocioni both posted 10 for Tau Ceramica.
The third period was played nervously as both defenses became more physical and baskets harder to come by in the first five minutes. Finally, a three-pointer by Corchiani gave a 15-point lead to the Spaniards, 41-56, after 26 minutes. Melvin Booker answered with five straight points and Andrea Pecile had two steals to cut the difference to 47-56, again causing BPA Palace to erupt. With Corchiani off the curt with four fouls, Tau's offense began to struggle, but three-pointers by Byrd and Pecile brought the quarter to a close at 54-63.
Scavolini used all its weapons and pride to come back in the last period. Pecile transmitted his hustle and desire to win to all his teammates as he bagged three-pointers to bring his team within seven, at 62-69. But Byrd immediately countered with his own long-distance shot as the shot clock expired and an easy lay up after a steal. In the final three minutes, Tau put the game on ice as Corchiani made several free-throws that helped seal the victory.
Wednesday, January 30, 2002