| Regal FC Barcelona stayed as the only undefeated team in the 2009-10 Euroleague season by downing Cibona 66-80 in Zagreb, Croatia in Group A on Thursday. Barcelona improved to 7-0 and at the very worst, will become the Group A champion if it wins its last two home games against Zalgiris and Montepaschi Siena. Meanwhile, Cibona dropped to 1-6 and will run out of chances to reach the Top 16 if it loses at home against Fenerbahce Ulker next week. Juan Carlos Navarro led the winners with 20 points. Fran Vazquez added 19 and 8 rebounds while Terence Morris barely missed a double-double with 11 points and 9 boards for Barcelona. Jamont Gordon led Cibona with 19 points. Leon Radosevic added 10 for the hosts. Vazquez and Morris shined in the first quarter and a three-pointer by Jaka Lakovic gave Barcelona a 19-26 lead after 10 minutes. Bojan Bogdanovic sank back-to-back triples but Navarro took over with 14 points in the second quarter to boost the guests' margin to 34-45 at halftime. Vedran Vukusic and Gordon brought Cibona within 49-55 midway through the third quarter but Navarro and Boni Ndong made it a 12-point gane, 53-65, after 30 minutes. Roger Grimau and Vazquez helped Barcelona to seal the outcome long before the final buzzer.
Cibona tried to open the floor with a starting lineup that featured big men Luksa Andric and Vukusic playing on the perimeter and powering the offensive board. Marin Rozic got the hosts going with a mid-range jumper but Vazquez followed a wild alleyoop dunk with a mid-range shot for a 2-4 Barcelona lead. Andric stepped up with a tip-in and Gordon added a reverse layup but Morris sank a corner triple to put the guests back ahead, 6-7. Vazquez stayed on fire with a five-meter jumper and an unbelievable dunk-and-foul, good for a 8-12 score. Vukusic tried to change things with a tip-in that Morris erased with free throws. Gordon took over with a three-point play, as Cibona stick to its game plan, opening the floor for one-on-one opportunities. Erazem Lorbek hit free throws and improved with a triple for a 13-19 Barcelona lead. Victor Sada shined with a driving layup but Gordon and Radosevic kept the hosts within 17-21. Tomas scored in transition but free throws by Ndong and a three-pointer by Lakovic gave Barcelona some fresh air, 19-26, after 10 minutes.
Bogdanovic struck from downtown early in the second quarter and soon added a seven-meter bomb to bring Cibona as close as 25-26. Jordi Trias scored in transition, as Barcelona used Lakovic as off-guard together with Sada and Gianluca Basile - back in action for the first time since October. A technical foul on coach Velimir Perasovic allowed Navarro to follow free throws with a wide open three-pointer, capping a 0-7 Barcelona run. Vedran Princ took over with a driving layup and Dalibor Bagaric set the crowd on fire with a reverse dunk but Navarro bettered that with back-to-back triples to make it a double-digit game, 29-39. Gordon and Andric returned to the floor off a Cibona timeout and the hosts adjusted their defense. Andric hit free throws, as Barcelona tried to slow down its offense to find better shooting options. Navarro downed his fourth triple off a timeout and free throws by Ndong and Morris made it a 13-point game, 32-45. Gordon provided a highlight with a driving dunk to get Cibona within 34-45 at halftime.
Gordon kept pacing Cibona with a big three-pointer immediately after the break. Vazquez answered with a layup in transition and soon added a dunk to keep the guests out of trouble at 37-49. Vukusic grabbed a loose ball to put it in and a put-back layup by Radosevic gave Cibona some hope at 41-49. Radosevic fed Gordon for an uncontested layup but the guests did not panic and improved their defense. Vazquez hit free throws and soon added a dunk off an inbound pass to restore a 43-53 Barcelona lead. Vukusic buried a three-pointer but Barcelona had improved its ball circulation, finding good options early in each possession. Navarro hit free throws but an unstoppable Vukusic answered from downtown to get the crowd involved at 49-55. Lorbek and Navarro sank free throws, as Cibona called timeout to avoid loose ball fouls. Navarro fed Ndong for a baseline jumper that Princ bettered with a triple. Another jumper by Ndong and a fast break layup by Navarro fixed the score at 53-65 after 30 minutes.
Cibona needed a quick comeback to keep its options alive but Barcelona kept following its game plan, locking the defensive board and not being in a hurry to look for good shots in offense. Lorbek scored in the low post, as Cibona had started to miss free throw attempts at the worst possible time. A fallaway jumper by Grimau gave Barcelona a 15-point lead, 54-69. Gordon tried to ignite Cibona's comeback with a three-pointer and Radosevic scored down low for a 59-69 deficit. Grimau silenced the crowd with an off-balance jumper - and free throw that came with it. Free throws by Ricky Rubio allowed Barcelona to seal the outcome, 59-74, with over 4 minutes left. Cibona kept trying, however, but Barcelona dominated the game with its deeper rotation and athleticism. Vazquez scored again and Cibona only rallied in the final minutes, when Barcelona had already cruised to a well-deserved, convincing road win.
Thursday, December 10, 2009