Fenerbahce Ulker held off Zalgiris 80-72
Fenerbahce Ulker stayed perfect in Top 16 Group H by downing Zalgiris Kaunas 80-72 at Sinan Erdem Arena on Wednesday evening. The visitors dominated early and held on to keep it close throughout the contest, even taking a brief fourth-quarter lead. However the Turkish champs were too strong with a balanced attack in which five players scored at least a dozen points. Oguz Savas and Marko Tomas paced the winners with 15 points apiece, Mirsad Turkcan tallied 13 points and 14 rebounds, Emir Preldzic also scored 13 and Roko Ukic netted 12. DeJuan Collins and Paulius Jankunas scored 14 points each for Zalgiris, Aleksandar Capin had 12 and Tomas Delininkaitis 10. Fenerbahce could potentially reach the Quarterfinal Playoffs after its next game when the teams meet again in two weeks in Lithuania. Zalgiris, which dropped to 0-3, could be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss.
Zalgiris looked sharp from the beginning with Jankunas and Marty Pocius both taking advantage of space to knock down threes. Savas answered first with a free throw and later a basket in the paint, however Capin kept the Zalgiris momentum with a basket-plus-foul in transition and a steal and layup to make it 3-11. FB Ulker head coach Neven Spahija called a timeout to encourage his charges and Tomas came out after that with a pull-up jumper. Pocius fueled the visitors with a tough second chance basket and then releasing Collins for a fast break layup as the Zalgiris lead hit double-figures midway through the quarter. Savas scored on the offensive glass before Spahija turned to his bench for leadership and subbed in Turkcan and Sarunas Jasikevicius. Saras drained a three on his first possession and Turkcan gathered a steal that led to a Tomas three before burying his own as the crowd erupted with the score at 16-17. After a Zalgiris timeout, Savas capped an 11-0 run to put the hosts ahead for the first time. Travis Watson answered inside, but Turkcan scored inside and then stole the ball and made a fulllcourt pass to Preldzic to keep the Turkish champs rolling at 22-19 after 10 minutes.
Turkcan took a fine high-low pass from Darjus Lavrinovic to score on the baseline at the start of the second quarter. Zalgiris started to regroup as Jankunas scored inside, but Omer Onan buried a triple for the home side. The visitors kept coming hard with Jankunas adding a second-chance basket and Capin scoring in transition, while on defense Zalgiris forced a 24-second violation. Onan darted downcourt for a fastbreak layup only to see Boban Marjanovic keep the visitors on pace at 31-28. After a TV timeout, Marcus Brown bombed a three to knot the score. Savas showed his range with a long jumper at the other end and a minute later Ukic doubled the lead with a runner in the paint. Ukic with his confidence back, hit a mid-range jumper to pump the lead to 37-31. Zalgiris stayed close with Marjanovic hitting from the line and Collins converting a three-point play. Jasikevicius pulled up for a quick 2 only to see Delininkaitis answered from the line. Saras thought he gave the hosts the lead with a brilliant pass to Savas for a layup, but Collins had just enough time to pull up for a three to tie the score at 41-41 at halftime.
Savas and Jankunas traded scored on the first plays of the second half before Tomas got the home fans going with a three-pointer. Savas whipped a perfect ball into Turkcan for a layup that made it 48-43. Jankunas came back with a score from downtown and Tadas Klimavicius narrowed the gap to 1 from the line. The defenses tightened and the scoring slowed down, with two minutes passing before Collins got to the line and put Zalgiris ahead. Delininkaitis took the run to 8 unanswered points with a baseline jumper. Spahija used a timeout after which Preldzic ended a four-minute scoring drought from the line to put 49-51 on the scoreboard. Collins padded the Zalgiris lead only to see Ukic make it a 1-point game with a triple. Preldzic tied the game at 53-53. Turkcan and Delininkaitis also added 1 free throw each. Ukic made sure the hosts would have the lead going into the fourth quarter when he drained a triple to make it 58-54.
Zalgiris regained the lead early in the fourth quarter, first with Jankunas inside and then a big three from Brown to make it 58-59. Tomas put the hosts back on top with a three-pointer and then Saras pulled up for a short jumper, but Capin answered immediately with a leaner to keep Zalgiris within 2. Ukic hit from mid range. Watson countered for the guests. Then it was Turkcan that rose to the occasion with a clutch triple that made it 68-63 with just over five minutes remaining. Tomas added another three to the delight of the fans as Zalgiris called a timeout hoping to mount one last charge. Savas looked to put the game away with a basket in the paint. Delininkaitis kept Zalgiris alive with a penetration layup, but he lost the ball to Preldzic on the next play. Preldzic knocked down 1 free throw, but another turnover doomed the visitors. Delininkaitis did cut the gap to 74-69 with a triple with two minutes remaining, however Preldzic came through with 2 free throws and then a triple to seal the outcome to the delight of the locals. Zalgiris fought till the end and kept it interesting with a Capin three, but the hosts stayed calm to snatch the win.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011