Zalgiris Kaunas added yet another title to its case after a 79-55 win over Benetton Basket Treviso in the final game of the Citta di Roma tournament on Tuesday night in Rome, Italy. By reaching the top step on the podium, Zalgiris also earned the first ticket to the Nike International Junior Tournament to be held during the 2010 Euroleague Final Four weekend in Paris, France, a tournament Zalgiris has already won twice in the past. In the upcoming weeks three more tournaments will take place around Europe and the winner of each tournament will join Zalgiris in Paris. Benetton missed star Alessandro Gentile, who suffered a calf injury in a Sunday game, nevertheless his first two performances earned him a spot in the All-Tournament first team. Without him Zalgiris was too much for Benetton to handle, and after one close quarter the Lithuanian side took off to a 39-26 halftime lead. Rolandas Jakstas finished the game with 11 points and 14 rebounds on his way to the MVP title of the tournament. Dovydas Redikas added 15 points and a spot in the all-tournament first team. Kaspars Vecvagars scored 11 for the winners. Benetton enjoyed 18 points and 7 rebounds by Armin Mazic, who was followed by Andrea Quarisa with 13 points and 12 boards. Alessandro Zanelli was the last on the double-digits sheet with 11 points. Without the scoring force of Gentile the entire squad of Benetton suffered from the arc, making just 3 of 29 three-point attempts. Zalgiris was more effective around the rim, and hit 57% of its two-point range shots.
It took Zalgiris a full 3 minutes to score its first basket, after which a rare three-pointer by Zanelli gave Benetton a 5-9 lead. Vecvagars connected for 5 points in a row to hand Zalgiris its first lead in the game, 14-13, but the last word before the first-quarter buzzer was at the other side of the court, where Benetton took a 14-15 lead. It was the last time Benetton was on top all night, because Vecvagars started the second quarter with another three-point shot. That's when Redikas stepped up big-time with an individual 9-0 run for the game's first double-digit lead, 30-19. Pavlin Ivanov scored his only three-pointer for Benetton, but Redikas was still on fire, scoring 13 points in 15 minutes as the Zalgiris lead climbed to 39-26 at halftime. Mazic and Quarisa scored 4 points around the rim following the break, narrowing the difference to 41-30, but the aggressiveness of Zalgiris was soon too much for Benetton to handle. Egidijus Mockevicius was in every corner of the court to steal, rebound, assist and score as the squad from Kaunas maintained a safe, yet still reachable, margin of 55-42 after 27 minutes. In order to enjoy a safer walk in the closing period, Zalgiris added 5 more points to the difference before the third quarter ended 60-42. Early in the fourth quarter, the first 20-point gap was registered. Until the buzzer, Jakstas improved his numbers to justify the MVP award. The Zalgiris win was never put in doubt and the ticket to Paris will travel back to Lithuania along with the tournament trophy.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009