A thriller to the finish left one team still in charge of Group E and another winless as visiting Real Madrid outlasted Ulker in Istanbul 69-71 on Thursday. It was Madrid's third win in as many Top 16 games and third against Ulker over the course of the season. At 3-0, Madrid is in line to qualify early for the quarterfinal playoffs, while Ulker fell to 0-3 and likely needs to win all its remaining games to survive. Moustapha Sonko was the surprise contributor for the winners, making 4 three-pointers on his way to 14 points. He was matched in points by Louis Bullock, Madrid's only other double-figure scorer. Ulker got 18 points, including 4 triples also, from Omer Onan. Vrbica Stefanov canned 14 points, while Mirsad Turkcan added a double-double of 11 points and 14 rebounds for Ulker. Madrid broke a second-quarter tie with a 0-9 run shortly before halftime, and held the lead from then until the finish, although Ulker rallied to within a single point in the next-to-last minute, when Bullock ended all doubt with a triple.
Ulker blasted off to start the game with a 8-0 run in the first 2 minutes. Vrbica Stefanov scored 4 of those points while Real Madrid struggled to get decent shots and stayed scoreless for 2 minutes, 52 seconds until Rakocevic broke away for a fastbreak layup. That signalled that it was Madrid’s turn, and before the visitors were done, they had a 0-11 run, thanks to 5 points from Rakocevic. After Moustapha Sonko finished the run with a triple, however, Omer Onan, starting in place of Ibrahim Kutluay in order to defend Louis Bullock, matched him from the arc to tie it all up at 11-11. Jeff Trepagnier followed with another three-pointer to put Ulker in front 14-11, but soon Mickael Gelabale scored 4 in a row for the guests and Venson Hamilton added a tip-in in the last minute make it 18-19 after one quarter.
Gelabale and Marcus Haislip exchanged free throws to start the second quarter before Oguz Savas tied it for Ulker from the line. Back and forth went the lead, with Hervelle's dunk and jumper split by a triple from Kutluay. After Haislip scored in close to put Ulker back up by a point, 26-25, a pair of scoreless minutes followed before Sonko banged in his second triple. Neither team could get away, and when Onan hit another from downtown, it was all tied up yet again, 32-32. That is when Madird took over behind its twin scoring aces on the perimeter. Rakocevic started it innocently enough with free throws that he soon followed with a layup on an assist by Bullock, who then took his second consecutive defensive rebound, raced downcourt and buried a triple. Ulker needed a timeout, but after it, could not get back to the basket the rest of the half, while Bullock added free throws to complete a 0-9 run with Madrid in charge at the break, 32-41.
Ulker staged a mini-comeback to start the second half as free throws by Mirsad Turkcan and a layup by Onan got the hosts within 36-41. There, however, Madrid stopped the hosts while Alex Scales, Hamilton and Bullock all scored inside to boost the lead into double digits, 36-47. After a jump shot by Stefanov for the hosts, Felipe Reyes added 4 points to the Madrid run to retain a margin of 40-51. Ulker chose a zone press to try to cut into the difference, and after an even spell, it worked as Onan resurfaced for a triple and a layup that cut the difference all the way to 52-56. But as in the previous quarter, Madrid finished this one strong to as Sonko buried a pair of three-pointers in the remaining 60 seconds to vault the visitors ahead 54-62 after 30 minutes.
Ulker pushed hard to come back, limiting Madrid to a single basket - a triple by Gelabale - in the first 5 minutes of the final quarter. Meanwhile, Onan was burying a triple and Turkcan a pair of free throws to finish a 9-2 run that made it 63-65. That set up a tense finish, but Sonko again gave Madrid the upper hand with a strike from downtown, his fourth. Free throws by Onan and a layup by Robert Gulyas now got Ulker as close as 67-68. Bullock came right downcourt and buried his own triple, however, just before the last minute started. Drago Pasalic climbed off the bench and, in his first moments on the floor all game, scored inside for Ulker to make it 69-71. His fouls on Reyes also got the ball back one more time for Ulker after the Madrid center missed free throws. Kutluay had the final ball for the hosts, but he lost it while driving to the paint from the baseline and didn't get a shot off before the buzzer sounded, leaving the victory to the undefeated visitors.
Thursday, March 09, 2006