|Regal FC Barcelona took exclusive hold of second place in Group F by blasting pesky Alba Berlin after halftime for a 85-69 home win on Thursday. Barcelona raised its record to 2-1, a victory behind undefeated Real Madrid and one ahead of third-place Maccabi. Alba fell to 0-3 and will keep looking for its first Top 16 victory after next week's break, when it hosts Barcelona in Berlin. It did not look like an easy win for Barcelona in the first half, which Alba won 37-38 with some heady all-around effort and good ball movement leading to open layups. Everything changed after intermission as Gianluca Basile made 4 free throws to get back the lead for Barcelona. After Alba scored again, however, the hosts put the game away with a huge 17-0 run in which Ersan Ilyasova hit his fourth and fifth triples without a miss until then. Ilyasova was the big gun for the winners, pumping in a career-high 30 points to go with 11 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 assists and 2 blocks. He ended up hitting 6 of the 7 triples he tried. Basile followed with 14 points, Juan Carlos Navarro added 13 and David Andersen 10 for the winners. Julius Jenkis was Alba's top scorer with 12 points, while Aleksander Nadjfeji added 11 and Adam Chubb 10.
Barcelona started stylishly, with a reverse dunk by Daniel Santiago, but Chubb matched him with a similar one-hander. Victor Sada put Barcelona up 4-2 at the foul line, but Casey Jacobsen converted a steal for the guests. Ilyasova swished an open three-pointer and then blocked Chubb's next shot from behind, so that when Navarro joined the scoring with a "bomba" from the lane, the hosts were up 8-4. After Immanuel McElroy hit free throws for Alba, Basile matched them and hit a left-handed layup at 12-6. Ansu Sesay tried to rally Alba from downtown, but Ilyasova was just as good from the arc, then downed free throws off an offensive rebound to make it 17-9. Sesay's jump shot got Alba into double-digits, a drive by McElroy and inside shot by Nadjfeji even closer, 17-15, forcing a Barcelona timeout. David Andersen got his first basket then, but Nadjfeji equalled it, cutting Barcelona's advantage to 19-17 after one quarter.
After getting open underneath, Sesay tied it 19-19 at the line on the second quarter's first play. In response, Barcelona lobbed to Fran Vazquez for a dunk. Nadjfeji completed Alba's takeover with a back-down post-up move and a fastbreak dunk at 21-23. Basile came back and blasted a triple from the top to make it 24-23 for Barcelona. Rashad Wright had Alba's answer, dancing through the Barcelona defense for a layup that Jenkins copied on the next possession, putting the guests up 24-27. Navarro tied it just as quickly, on a triple from the corner, but Wright fed Dragan Dojcin for a layup to keep Alba one step ahead. By the time Jenkins also scored close in, Alba was up 26-31. Ilyasova was Barcelona's answer man, with his third triple, but Jenkins stuck a shorter jumper at 29-33. Ilyasova hustled to put back his own miss, then Navarro blasted a seven-meter triple for another quick scoreboard switch, 34-33. Alba took a timeout to talk about it and took the lead back when Jenkins got free for a layup. Santiago hit 1 of 2 free throws to tie, 35-35, then Navarro rolled off a screen for another one-hander to put Barcelona ahead, but Jenkins tied it from just inside the arc and Nadjfeji hit a free throw off a late steal to silence the crowd at halftime with Alba ahead 37-38.
Basile put Barcelona back in front with two aggressive drives leading to 4 perfect free throws right after the break. Sesay responded for Alba in close, but Sada found Santiago for a layup and Ilyasova pumped in another triple to make it 46-40. Alba needed a timeout, but couldn't get restarted as Vazquez dunked alone and Ilyasova converted Sada's steal to make it 50-40. Alba was getting no easy looks or second shots, while Ilyasova buried his fifth triple without a miss and Basile another to make it 56-40. After Ilyasova sat down to a standing ovation, both offenses stalled until Vazquez scored inside to cap Barcelona's run at 17-0. Jacobsen ended Alba's bleeding with a corner triple and Chubb got a hustle basket, but Andre Barrett finished the quarter for Barcelona with a baseline jumper that showed the hosts completely in charge at 60-45.
Ilyasova hit 2 free throws and pulled every rebound to start the fourth quarter by dispelling any ideas of an Alba comeback. His put-back after 3 tries and as many offensive rebounds earned him another ovation as the score hit 64-47. Despite hustle plays like Jacobsen's steal, Alba could do no more than exchange baskets as Ilyasov and now Andersen, with a dunk, ruled inside on offense for Barcelona. By the time Navarro rejoined the scoring, it was 74-58 with under 4 minutes left and no more mystery to the outcome remained. It took them a half to get going, but Barcelona defended its homecourt without more problems and kept on track for a shot at the Quarterfinal Playoffs.
Thursday, February 12, 2009