Crvena Zvezda confirmed its good moment and climbed atop the Group F standings by edging Benetton Gioco Digitale 71-78 in Treviso, Italy on Tuesday night. C. Zvezda is the only undefeated team in Group F with a 2-0 record while Benetton ties for second place with Cholet Basket at 1-1. Elmedin Kikanovic paced the winners with 21 points on 8-of-13 two-pointers. Marko Keselj had 18, Tadija Dragicevic added 14 while Filip Videnov got 11 for C. Zvezda. Gary Neal led Benetton with 22 points. Davor Kus added 16, Jasmin Hukic had 10 while CJ Wallace pulled down 9 rebounds for the hosts. Kikanovic and Videnov fueled a 1-15 opening run that allowed Zvezda to keep a 14-23 lead after 10 minutes. Neal rescued Benetton and gave the hosts a 36-35 edge near halftime. A dunk by Donatas Motiejunas gave Benetton its last lead, 67-65, with 4 minutes remaining. Dragicevic downed a triple, igniting a 3-9 run in which Kikanovic had 6 points to seal the outcome, 69-74, as Benetton did not recover.
Benetton won the tip off but C. Zvezda dictated the early goings with consecutive steals and a three-pointer from Videnov, which prompted an early Benetton timeout at 1-9. Kikanovic added 4 points without reply as Benetton kept collecting turnovers on the way to a 1-15 scorebard. Neal stopped the bleeding with a jumper and an inspired basket-plus-free throw. Benetton found its rhythm and drew a few fouls but Vuk Radivojevic netted a triple. A triple for each team from Hukic and Keselj fixed the scoreboard at 14-23 after 10 minutes. Benetton clearly stepped up a gear in the second quarter as Neal took over to help cut the deficit to 3 points. It was quickly all tied when Hukic connected from the arc. Vladimir Stimac briefly interrupted Benetton’s run but Kus buried another triple to send the visitors for a chat at 26-25. Baskets were traded the, with Sandro Nicevic and Stimac standing out. Both teams went cold before two beautiful plays from Nemanja Bjelica were met by a couple of three-pointers from Neal. By the time that Alessandro Gentile dunked on the break, the hosts were ahead 38-35. Benetton misfired a couple despite successive offensive boards and the guests took full advantage with a buzzer-beater from Keselj, which meant C. Zvezda regained the lead 38-40 at halftime.
C.J. Wallace broke the ice after halftime from the free throw line as C. Zvezda failed to surprise Benetton with its press. Hukic’s long hook was then met by a Kikanovic bucket inside. Benetton had its biggest lead of the night thanks to a block and a Kus triple, 46-42. Kikanovic and Dragicevic combined to get C. Zvezda back in front, however. The lead kept switching sides as the game turned into a Neal versus Keselj show. Videnov stopped it with a nice catch-and-shoot triple, while the last basket of the third quarter saw Wallace go one-on-one against Stimac for a 58-57 Benetton edge. Keselj showed no intention of halting his three-point prowess in the decisive last 10 minutes. Stimac grabbed an offensive foul as well as a technical one but C. Zvezda got away with conceding just one point from that. Quiet thus far, Daniel Hackett opened his account when it mattered most, putting an end to a scoring drought from both teams. Videnov tried another quick-release triple but the hosts rebounded, ran and concluded the play with a slam by Donatas Montiejunas. Dragicevic proved again how comfortable he felt from 6.25 meters - and beyond. However, it was Kikanovic inside that made the lasting damage with 6 clutch points that sent Benetton for a timeout down 69-74 with less than 2 minutes. Montiejunas off a Kus feed reduced the gap to one basket but Kikanovic was the hero with an unbelievable basket as he fell hard on the floor. It was 71-77 with 45 seconds on the clock. Benetton misfired and C. Zvezda handled the clock, going away with a very precious victory to keep a ferfect record in Group F.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009