Uxue Bilbao Basket is headed back to the semifinals for the third time in as many Eurocup seasons after it crushed visiting ratiopharm Ulm 101-78 in the second and last game of their quarterfinal series on Tuesday. Ulm had won Game 1 by 4 points at home, which meant that Bilbao won the series by a 19-point margin. Bilbao used exceptional scoring to outgun Ulm. Its 57 halftime points broke the previous quarterfinals record of 55 scored by Estudiantes Madrid back in 2003. Its final 101 points were the most at this stage since the same 2003 season, when Estudiantes also had 101 and Valencia set the quarterfinals record of 105. In the semis, Bilbao will play the winner of the Budivelnik Kiev vs. Spartak St. Petersburg series that finishes Wednesday. The semifinals are March 19 and 27, and Bilbao will play Game 2 at home regardless of its opponent. On Tuesday, it seemed as though Ulm would be the scoring sensation as its 6 three-pointers yielded a 28-30 first-quarter lead. But after that Bilbao's defense ruled. Nikos Zisis led the winners with 23 points, while Lamont Hamilton followed with 21 and 9 rebounds. Roger Grimau and Fran Pilepic came off the bench for 13 and 12 points, respectively. Ulm got 21 points and 8 rebounds from John Bryant. Per Guenther made 5 three-pointers on the way to 19 points while Steven Esterkamp scored 13 and Ray Allan 10.
A triple by Bryant started the game and foreshadowed several minutes of shooting prowess by the visitors. After Bilbao got 4 points from Zisis, the real bombing began by Ulm. Back-to-back threes by Guenther gave the visitors an 8-11 lead, but despite another by Esterkamp, 6 free throws and a basket by Hamilton kept Bilbao within 16-17. Guenther returned for his third three-pointer and Ulm's sixth in less than 8 minutes before Axel Hervelle made Bilbao's first for a 21-22 scoreboard. Kostas Vasiliadis soon hit the second for a 24-24 tie, and after Bryant kept Ulm ahead, Grimau beat the first-quarter buzzer for a 28-30 scoreboard.
The scoring pace didn't let up as Hamilton and Vasiliadis gave Bilbao a quick second-quarter lead before Esterkamp blasted another triple. Lance Jeter joined the Ulm bombers to make it 34-38, however, Zisis answered from the arc immediately, then 5 points Grimau and Pilepic's first basket put Bilbao back in front 44-40. Guenther returned with his team's ninth triple in 16 minutes, but Bilbao kept rolling up points until Hamilton's jumper and a free throw by Raul Lopez made it 52-43. A Lopez triple then meant the game's first double-digit lead, which Bilbao held onto 57-47 at halftime.
Alex Mumbru's put-back and Hervelle's tip-in meant a 14-point lead, 61-47, before Ray got Ulm's first basket of the second half. Zisis answered from downtown and his next shot made it 66-49, the high lead until then. Ulm couldn't buy a basket until Bryant got one and assisted Guenther on a triple. So when Ray broke loose for a reverse layup, Ulm had the difference down to 10 again, 66-56. A rare scoreless minute ended with Bryant free throws, a layup by Grimau and a breakaway dunk by Jeter at 68-60. Pilepic came up big for Bilbao with back-to-back triples and Grimau a running one-hander at 76-60. Esterkamp's triple was answered by a reverse from Pilepic as Bilbao pulled ahead 78-63 after 30 minutes.
The Bilbao wave continued crashing Ulm with the first 8 points of the fourth quarter, making it 86-63, which was then the game's biggest advantage, 23 points. Ulm got 4 points back from Ray and Bryant, but time was wasting now, and with 5 minutes left, Bilbao still led by 88-69, which converted to a 15-point lead in the series. When Hamilton converted a steal with a swinging rim-rocker and Zisis knocked down a jumper it was 92-69 and the handwriting was on the wall. It said that Ulm's impressive rookie season was over, while Bilbao was in the semifinals again.
Tuesday, March 12, 2013