| The second half of the Last 16 will be a race to the finish in Group I after Aris BSA 2003 topped Alba Berlin 80-67 at home in Thessaloniki, Greece on Tuesday to take over second place in the standings. Both teams now have 2-2 records, but since both of Aris's victories have come against Alba, it will likely win any tie in which they both take part.
Aris depended on its veterans to pull out what was a close game through the early fourth quarter, when Alba led 55-58. Michalis Kakouzis and Andy Betts then sparked a 15-3 run that largely decided the outcome. Betts finished with 19 points and 6 rebounds while Kakiouzis piled on 18 points and 8 boards for the winners. Jeremy Richardson tacked on 17 points and 5 boards, Keydren Clark 11 points and 6 assists. Aris outrebounded Alba 40-26 - including 16 offensive rebounds - in what was a key factor in the result. The Aris defense did the rest, keeping all Alba's scorers under 12 points. Julius Jenkins and Jurica Golemac had 11 each for the guests, while Blagota Sekulic followed with 10.
Aris fired up the home fans by racing to a 9-0 advantage that included 5 points by Richardson. Almost 4 minutes passed before Sekulic got Berlin on the scoreboard, but soon the visitors had not only tied the score but pushed their run a basket higher to lead 9-11 on Cemal Nalga's layup. It was the hosts' turn to react, and they did so by going inside to Betts and Dimos Dikoudis who led Aris back to a 20-17 advantage after 10 minutes. The process repeated itself in the second quarter, when Steffan Hamman's three-pointer for Alba tied it 22-22. Aris again pulled away as a pair of triples by Clark made it 28-22, and Alba again rallied back, behind Nalga and Golemac, to go ahead on the latter's shot from the arc and make it to halftime still holding a 36-38 lead.
Both defenses tightened to open the second half, with Aris only giving Alba foul shots while its newly signed shooter Matt Walsh had the only basket through 4 minutes. Richardson and Jenkins exchanged layups then, followed by Betts and Golemac, although Sekulic's free throws kept Alba up 44-47. Richardson struck from downtown to tie before Kakiouzis fueled a takeover with his own triple and a steal-plus-layup for the third quarter's last 5 points and a new Aris lead, 52-49. When Derrick Byars copied those 5 points in a row for Alba to start the final quarter, the guests shot ahead 55-58, and Aris needed something now. That something was Betts re-emerging with a three-point play the hard way and a big block that sparked the Aris defense while Richardson and Kakiuouzis completed a 7-0 run to a 62-58 lead. When Jenkins hit from deep for Alba, the hosts answered with two-for-one, Walsh and Kakiouzis burying triples at 70-61. Clark and Kakiouzis added one more triple each for good measure as Aris fans looked forward to race until the finish in Last 16 Group I.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010