On a night dedicated to basketball history, ASK Riga made some of its own by winning the season opener for 2007-08 and its own ULEB Cup debut 77-58 over visiting Lukoil Academic on Monday. A pre-game ceremony honored legends from both clubs who had faced off in the first two European club finals in 1958 and 1959. When it got down to action, however, ASK made sure to send a strong message on-court, overcoming early deficits to take control of the game for good after halftime. Dwayne Broyles led the winners with 16 points, while Sandis Valters and Aerick Sanders added 11 each. Lukoil got 22 points from Pero Antic, 14 from Riste Stefanov and 10 from Donta Smith. The victory puts ASK in good position in Group H, while Lukoil might have to overcome both the loss and the point difference in the future.
Lukoil opened the score with a four-chance offensive possession that allowed Antic to finallly bury a five-meter shot. ASK went scoreless for more than 2 minutes, missing 5 consecutive shots until Sandis Valters scored from downtown for a 3-2 edge. Tencho Banev the grabbed a loose ball and put it in for Lukoil, but the visitors couldn't find big guns Donta Smith or Stoykov in offense. Both teams struggled to find their rhythm until Antic dunked and Broyles answered with a reverse layup. Banev made free throws for a 6-7 Lukoil edge, but Broyles soon added a fastbreak basket and Sanders a driving layup for a 10-7 ASK edge. Antic stayed hot with a long jumper and then followed Smith's free throws with a turnaround jumper and a foul shot of his own, good for a 12-14 Lukoil edge after 10 minutes. Smith got a second-chance basket that kept Lukoil in charge at 12-18 early in the second quarter, but ASK was ready to respond. Sanders stepped up with back-to-back jumpers to ignite the hosts, while A.J. Bramlett capped a 6-0 ASK run with a tip-in that provided an 18-17 lead. Antic stayed unstoppable for Lukoil, burying another shot that Raitis Grafs matched for ASK with a put-back layup. Sandis Buskevics then helped the hosts with a midcourt steal, making Lukoil call timeout at 22-19. The guests kept struggling to score while Arnis Vecgavars of ASK found space for an uncontested layup. Stoykov buried his first triple but ASK kept its momentum as Grafs nailed a baseline jumper for a 26-22 edge. Lukoil opted to slow the tempo as Antic beat the shot clock from downtown before Riste Stefanov gave Lukoil a brief 26-28 edge. However, Vecvagars and Grafs hit back-to-back shots to help ASK regain the lead, 30-28, at halftime.
Broyles provided a highlight with a dunk right after the break that Donta Smith erased with a layup. Bramlett scored in the paint and Broyles added a three-pointer. An easy layup by Buskevics made Lukoil, which could not find its way to the basket, call timeout at 39-32. Nothing changed. Valters scored in penetration while Broyles nailed a three-pointer that gave ASK its first double-digit lead, 44-32. An unstoppable Broyles fired the crowd up with a reverse layup, forcing another Lukoil timeout at 48-32. It did not serve to keep Marko Antonijevic and Gatis Jahovics from hitting triples to cap a game-breaking 22-2 run that gave ASK a mammoth 56-34 lead. Antic tried to change things with a three-point play and Dimitar Phillipov added a mid-range jumper. Donta Smith shined with a dunk and Stefanov scored from downtown, but Valters beat the buzzer for a 61-44 ASK lead after 30 minutes. Murilo Da Rosa tried to ignite a Lukoil comeback with a power layup but Grafs bettered it with a three-point play. ASK kept dominating the game with defense, but finally Stefanov scored from downtown to give Lukoil some hope at 64-49. Antic kept scoring for Lukoil and Donta Smith added a put-back dunk, making ASK call timeout at 66-53 with 6 minutes to go. Jahovics had a layup-plus-free throw to keep his team out of trouble at 69-53 and ASK regained the intensity it needed to hold off the Lukoil comeback. ASK celebrated its ULEB Cup debut with a big win in an emotional night for European basketball, while Lukoil must keep working hard to get to the elimination rounds.
Monday, November 05, 2007