Ulker Istanbul registered a huge Group B victory on Wedenesday by stunning Benetton 50-65 at at Palaverde of Treviso. The shock came on two fronts, the outcome and the score. Ulker's defense held Benetton 32.3 points below its average and to the fewest points ever by a Euroleague home team. Ulker raised its record to 2-3 to join Unicaja, Tau and Opel Skyliners in fourth place. Benetton is tied for second place with Panathinaikos at 3-2. Shooting percentages made the difference, Ulker scored 11 of its 22 attempts from long distance, while Benetton landed just 2 of 11. Saulius Stombergas and Serkan Erdogan led a balanced Ulker offense, tallying 15 points apiece. Virginijus Praskevicius added 12 coming off the bench and Eurelijus Zukuaskus registered a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds while also blocking 4 shots. Benetton had just two players scoring in double figures, Massimo Bulleri with 11 points, though he made just 5 of 14 on field goals, and Matteo Soragna with 10. Denis Marconato had more rebounds, 13, than points, 8.
Kerem Gonlum opened the scoring for Ulker by driving to the basket, while Benetton needed more than two minutes to tie. Marcus Goree made that shot and gave the hosts their first advantage, 6-5, by taking Ulker point guard Kerem Tunceri in the low post. A run of 5 points by Stombergas returned the lead to Ulker, at 9-12, then Benetton found easy baskets in the open court by Marlon Garnett and Bulleri to be close within 13-14. Bulleri tied it 14-14 with a free throw as the first 10 minutes of what was already a defensive-minded game expired.
Erdogan struck with a shot from downtown to bring Ulker its first solid lead, 14-19, while Benetton struggled with the slow pace forced by the guests. Zukauskas made a three-point-play to cap an 8-0 Ulker run that pushed the margin to 14-22. Bulleri ended 4 scoreless minutes for Benetton with a mid-range jumper, and Marconato followed him to bring the hosts within 18-22. After an exchange of baskets, Erdogan beat Benetton's 3-2 zone defense from beyond the arc, his third triple, to boost the difference 26-32, where the score stayed when he also missed the final shot on the halftime buzzer.
Ulker started again to control the pace after the break as Stombergas scored an easy layup to make it an eight-point lead, 26-34. Marconato started dominating the boards and converted an offensive rebound-plus-free throw to put his team closer, 31-34. He and Zukauskas were the protagonists now, exchanging baskets while the outside shooters missed. Dion Glover found an easy layup for Ulker and Erdogan scored again from long distance on a screen by Zukauskas for the biggest margin yet, 33-42, after 27 minutes. Glover boosted the lead into double digits with a triple, Zukauskas blocked Goree, but Uros Slokar scored to keep Benetton alive at 35-45. Stombergas refueled Ulker with another strike from long distance, saw Soragna score for Benetton, then buried another shot from the corner on the buzzer to lift Ulker up by 37-51 after 30 minutes.
Bulleri tried to sound the charge for his team, scoring a short jumper while a Benetton zone stopped Ulker for a stretch early in the fourth quarter. Still, the hosts could night find their own way to the basket too often. Gonlum, assisted by Zukauskas, scored underneath, and Goree popped from behind a screen to score the triple that got the difference back to single digits, 42-53, midway through the quarter. Tunceri scored his first basket then, with a pull-up jumper, showing that it was Ulker's night after all. The visitors' defense remained insuperable and Benetton lost its confidence in a comeback. Prakevicius sealed the game with 5 late points in a row and Ulker left Treviso with a big, and rare, road win to brag about.
Wednesday, December 1, 2004