Two high-scoring teams shot it out in their ULEB Cup opener on Wednesday in Amsterdam, and when the smoke cleared, KK Zadar of Croatia had pulled away to a 94-99 road win over Ricoh Astronauts. The basketball fans in Amsterdam surely saw something special as their team matched one of Europe's classic clubs, Zadar, shot for shot throughout the match, right down to the last minute. In that minute, however, Zadar ignored two three-pointers by the hosts and calmly made all its opportunities. The winners were led Hrvoje Perincic with 24 points and 15 rebounds. Marko Popov Zadar with 26 points. Marko Samanic added 19, Mladen Erjavec 17 and Branimir Longin 11. Joe Spinks was the go-to guy for Astronauts, popping in 27 for the night. Sasa Ocokoljic had most of his 21 in the first half. Chris McGuthrie added 16 and Zvonimir Ridl 11, plus 13 rebounds. Astronauts put up an incredible 39 three-point attempts, making 15 from behind the arc.
It was a scorer's game at the start, with both teams racking up points inside and out through the first quarter. Both teams did most of their damage from outside, as Sasa Ocokoljic of Astronauts hit a pair of three-pointers on the way to 9 points in the quarter. Hrvoje Perincic of Zadar did him one better, however, nailing three shots from way out for 13 points in 10 minutes. Back and forth they went rolling up numbers on the scoreboard, until a layup by Zvonimir Ridl to finally give the lead to Astronauts, 25-23, after 10 minutes. Halfway through the second quarter, with Ridl and 1.74-meter point guard Chris McGuthrie pouring in points, Astronauts had extended the lead to 38-33. McGuthrie caught and surpassed Perincic, firing in 4 three-pointers by the 15-minute mark. But then Zadar was able to limit the hosts to foul shots during almost five minutes, while Toni Dijan and Marko Popovic hit a pair of baskets and center Marko Samanic took over under the boards, and as a result, at the foul line. It all added up to a 1-10 run for the visitors, who took a 39-43 lead with barely a minute to go. But it was a fortuitous minute for Astronauts. First, Ocokoljic finally answered with his third three-pointer. Then, right on his heels, McGuthrie dropped in his fifth rainbow of the half. All signs pointed to a long shootout as the teams hit the lockerrooms tied 45-45. McGuthrie had 16 points and Ocokoljic 12 for Astronauts, who made 9 of 20 threes on the half. Zadar's big scorers were Perincic with 15 and Samanic with 11.
The scoring barely subsided after the break. For Astronauts, another player, Joe Spinks, joined the fun by collecting several baskets to push his personal point total to 19. His three-pointer late in the quarter gave Astronauts their biggest lead of the half, 67-61, but veteran Mladen Erjavic was right there to answer for Zadar. Sure enough, Popovic and Samanic were right behind him with two points each to forge a 70-70 tie. But after a timeout in the final minute, Spinks stepped up an buried a three to give Astronauts a 74-71 lead going into the last quarter. Suddenly, with the game on the line, baskets weren't so easy to come by. Back and forth they went, Spinks taking the major shots for Astronauts and Zadar sharing the ball. The visitors got ahead 80-82 after 2 free throws by Erjavic and 1 by Perincic. Only 3 minutes remained. Popovic opened that to 80-84 with two more foul shots, but Patrick Faijdherbe came off the bench for a huge three for Astronauts to make it 83-84. Zadar got layups from Popovic and Erjavic to make it 83-89, but Ocokoljic came up with a three-point play for 86-89. Despite two Astronauts three-pointers in the final minute, by Faijdherbe and Spinks, Zadar held on for the victory and a 1-0 start in Group D of the ULEB Cup.
Wednesday, October 16, 2002