Crvena Zvezda finished third in Group D after a wilde 89-92 road win at EiffelTowers Den Bosch in Holland on Tuesday. C. Zvezda finished tied for first place at 7-3 with Real Madrid and Unics Kazan, but fell to third place when tiebreakers were applied. Even though all three teams were 2-2 against each other, C. Zvezda had the worst point difference between them, - 26, as compared to +22 for Madrid, which finished first, and +9 for second-place Unics. The inevitability of that situation after Madrid and Unics had won no doubt led to C. Zvezda blowing all of its 22-point lead early in the second half before scoring the last 3 free throws to win. Tadija Dragicevic led the winners with 19 points, while Antonio Burks added 16 and Pero Antic 15. Also scoring 15 was Milan Gurovic, which gave him two ULEB Cup records: most total points (270) and highest scoring average (27 ppg.) during any regular season in the five editions of the competition. He was outdone on Tuesday, however, by Leon Rodgers of EiffelTowers, who poured in 34 points to lead his team's comeback. Kees Akerboom added 16 for the hosts and Travis Young 10.
Although the hosts got on the scoreboard first with a layup by James Nelson, C. Zvezda quickly took control. Antic scored twice in an 0-10 run that showed C. Zvezda it could get to the hoop easily on offense and shut down EiffelTowers on defense. Even when the hosts resumed scoring, Burks and Antic combined on 7 quick points to make it 6-17. Travis Young with a triple and Rodgers inside bit back with 5 points for EiffelTowers, but soon Gurovic was joining Burks in another scoring spurt that lifted the visitors to a 16-29 advantage after 10 minutes. Despite free throws by Antic to start the second quarter, EiffelTowers rallied behind 3 baskets by Akerboom to within 10 points again, 23-33. Antic was there again with the answer, a triple that sparked another C. Zvezda surge, especially on defense. The result was a four-minute run of 2-9 that made it 25-44 before Rodgers stopped the bleeding for EiffelTowers with a three-point basket-plus-free throw. C. Zvezda had another scoring ace waiting, however, and Dragicevic needed little time to drill a pair of three-pointers among 8 points that lifted the visitors' advantage to 36-54 at the break.
C. Zvezda established its highest leads as Gurovic opened the second half with a triple and Petar Popovic hit a layup to make it 37-59. Rodgers and Young tried by themselves to will EiffelTowers back into the game, but even as they scored their team's next 11 points, Antic returned with a triple to secure a 50-66 advantage for the C. Zvezda. Zeeve Berkowitz joined Rodgers in canning back-to-back shots from downtown for the hosts then. Burks interrupted EiffelTowers' roll but Rodgers had the last 3 points of the third quarter to finish a 22-11 run that cut the difference to 59-70. The hosts were not finished, either. Even when C. Zvezda scored the first 4 points of the final quarter, Robert Owens and Akerboom rained a new pair of triples to lower the difference to single digits, 65-74. And when Dragicevic answered them from downtown, EiffelTowers didn't wilt. Rodgers, Akerboom and Owens shared a new 11-1 blast that made pulled the hosts withing 76-78 with under 4 minutes left. Burks, Dragicevic and Gurovic, with his record-breaking jumper, extended the C. Zvezda lead to 78-84, but Rodgers wouldn't be denied. He scored 11 points in the next 2 minutes for EiffelTowers, with his last free throw completing the comeback with an 89-89 tie in the final minute. Now, however, it was C. Zvezda's turn at the line, and there Vuk Radivojevic and Popovic made 2 of 3 to take the road win that in the end did not affect the winning team's standing, either.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007