Partizan wins, locks up top seed
Partizan NIS Belgrade finished with the best record in all of the Top 16 thanks to a 91-75 win over visiting Dolomiti Energia Trento on Wednesday night in the Serbian capital. Partizan, which previously secured first place in Group E, finished with 5-1 record and clinched the top seed and homecourt advantage in each elimination round it will play. In the quarterfinals, Partizan will face UNICS Kazan, while previously-eliminated Trento ended its EuroCup campaign with a 0-6 Top 16 record. Partizan took the lead for good in the second quarter but Trento was still within 4 points early in the third before Partizan used a 10-2 run to pull away to a double-digit margin and control things until the final buzzer. Ognjen Jaramaz led Partizan with 19 points, Rashawn Thomas and Corey Walden added 13 apiece, Nikola Jankovic collected 11 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds and Uros Trifunovic netted 10 points. Justin Knox had 20 points and 7 rebounds, James Blackmon scored 19 and Aaron Craft collected 14 points and 10 assists in a losing effort.
Partizan took control from the get-go. Jankovic had a pair of baskets, including a fastbreak dunk, Jaramaz knocked down a triple and Thomas had a three-point play to open a 14-4 lead in little over 3 minutes. After a timeout, Blackmon got Trento going with a corner three and after Jaramaz answered with a triple of his own, Craft hit a triple while Knox and Blackmon each had 5 points, hitting a triple apiece, to put Trento up 21-22 after 10 minutes. The teams traded buckets early in the second, with Trifunovic and Walden each nailing a triple to put the hosts back in front 31-26. Back-to-back threes from Jaramaz and Novica Velickovic sparked a 12-2 run and helped extend it to 43-30. But Craft hit another three-pointer and Knox made a last-second floater to cut it to at 45-39 at halftime.
Walden and Toto Forray traded downtown shots to open the third quarter before Thomas scored 6 points, including a three-pointer, and a basket-plus-foul from Jaramaz helped open a 58-46 margin. Trento refused to go away, however, with Blackmon scoring from long range and Fabio Mian from close range in the ensuing 2-7 run. A three-pointer from Jaramaz made it 63-53 at the end of the third quarter and close-range baskets from Trifunovic and Jankovic stretched the margin early in the fourth. A triple from Marcus Paige and a three-plus-foul from Walden made it 76-59 midway through the fourth. Jankovic and Knox traded three-pointers and Trifunovic had a three-point play extending it to 83-64 as the hosts went on to close out the game.
Partizan will play its first-ever EuroCup Quarterfinals series and host UNICS Kazan in Game 1 in two weeks. Partizan was the only team with a 5-1 record in the Top 16 and has earned homecourt advantage in each elimination round it will play. Meanwhile, this game marks the end of the EuroCup journey for Trento.
Partizan tied a club recordwith 27 assists and Trento set its season-high with 24 assists. Eleven different players had multiple assists in this game.
Partizan had control of the boards from the start of the game and finished with a 40-24 advantage on the glass for the night.
Partizan won big, but did not do a good job of taking care of the ball in this game. Partizan finished the game committing 20 turnovers, its second-most in a game this EuroCup season.
Farewell in style
Trento playmaker Aaron Craft announced he will retire at the end of the season. In his last EuroCup game Craft had his second double-double of the season with 14 points on 3-for-5 three-point shooting and 10 assists. He also had 5 steals and 4 rebounds.
Wednesday, March 4, 2020