Lietuvos Rytas took a major step forwards to reach the Last 16 in regular season Group E by downing Azovmash Mariupol 83-64 in Vilnius, Lithuania on Tuesday. Both teams tie in Group E with a 2-2 record but L. Rytas left the court with the tie-break advantage if both teams remain tied at the end of this round, as Azovmash registered a 10-point win against the Lithuanian powerhouse last week. Branko Milisavljevic paced the winners with 24 points and 6 assists. Chuck Eidson posted a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds, Milko Bjelica had 13 points, Steponas Babrauskas added 12, Marijonas Petravicius got 11 while Donatas Zavackas pulled down 12 boards for L. Rytas. Khalid El-Amin and Simonas Serapinas each had 12 points for Azovmash while Marc Salyers added 10. El-Amin helped Azovmash to get an early 11-17 lead, but a game-breaking 25-5 run in which Milisavljevic, Bjelica and Babrauskas each struck twice from downtown allowed L. Rytas to break the game open, 51-28, at halftime. Nothing changed after the break, as L. Rytas kept a safe margin and cruised to a well-deserved, crucial win.
El-Amin got Azovmash going with a layup but Petravicius soon answered with a three-point play while Milisavljevic added a fast break layup for a 5-2 L. Rytas lead. Tomas Van den Spiegel dunked it while back-to-back baskets by Serhiy Lishchuk and Uche Nsonwu tied it at 8-8. El-Amin and a power layup by Serapinas put the guests back ahead, 9-14. El-Amin kept pacing Azovmash but a 6-0 L. Rytas run that Babrauskas capped with free throws tied it at 17-17. Babrauskas struck from downtown while Eidson dunked it for a 22-19 L. Rytas edge after 10 minutes. Milisavljevic buried a triple early in the second quarter and even when Dijon Thompson answered from downtown, he insisted with another one from beyond the arc. Mindaugas Lukauskis and Bjelica joined the three-point shootout for a 36-22 L. Rytas margin, after a 25-5 run. Serapinas stepped up with free throws but Babrauskas and Bjelica struck from downtown in a 9-0 run that broke the game open, 45-26. Milisavljevic followed a jumper with a triple to make it a 23-point game, 51-28, at halftime.
Van den Spiegel tried to ignit the guests' comeback with a put-back layup right after the break but Milisavljevic and Petravicius answered to keep L. Rytas way ahead, 56-30. Azovmash tried to get Van den Spiegel involved while a layup by Serapinas and a triple by Thompson got the guests within 56-39. Eidson stepped up with a layup and fed Donatas Zavackas for an easy basket, as L. Rytas improved its defense late in the third quarter. Bjelica followed a three-pointer with a put-back dunk with Eidson allowed the hosts to seal the outcome, 69-47, after 30 minutes. Azovmash now fought for points differential, a critical issue in such a balanced Eurocup regular season group. El-Amin sank a triple, igniting a 0-7 run that Van den Spiegel capped with a put-back layup for a 71-54 deficit. L. Rytas did not panic, as Milisavljevic and Bjelica stepped up for a 75-56 margin. Salyers kept trying to change things for Azovmash but he didn't find much help around. Meanwhile, Milisavljevic and Eidson made sure to keep L. Rytas way ahead until the final buzzer.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008