| Lietuvos Rytas started the 2008-09 Eurocup season in style by downing Asvel Basket 95-74 in front of 9,750 fans at Siemens Arena at the Opening Game in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Monday night. L. Rytas confirmed its status as the heavy favorite in Group E despite being without Matt Nielsen, who sat out in the game due to a possible move to another Eurocup club. Meanwhile, Asvel will look for its first win against Azovmash Mariupol at home next week. Mindaugas Lukauskis led the winners with 23 points, 6 rebounds and 6 steals. Milko Bjelica and Chuck Eidson each added 16 points and Branko Milisavljevic had 10 points and dished 7 assists for L. Rytas. J.R. Reynolds led Asvel with 17 points. Ali Traore added 16, Amara Sy had 12 and Ben Dewar 10 for the guests. L. Rytas overcame a slow start as Bjelica and Eidson led the hosts to a 24-13 advantage after 10 minutes. Asvel managed to get within 27-21 midway through the second quarter, but an outstanding Lukauskis dominated at both ends to give L. Rytas a 52-36 halftime margin. L. Rytas stayed focused after the break and sealed the outcome long before the final buzzer.
Traore had the honor of scoring the first basket of the 2008-09 Eurocup season before Eric Campbell gave Asvel Basket a 0-4 lead. Marijonas Petravicius sank free throws while Lukauskis struck from downtown for a 5-4 L. Rytas edge. Traore took over with a smooth layup but Bjelica came up with 7 points in a 9-0 L. Rytas run that gave the hosts a 14-6 margin. Sy stepped up with a pair of baskets while a three-point play by Reynolds brought Asvel back to life at 16-13. Martynas Gecevicius hit a triple and Eidson added 5 unanswered points to restore a 24-13 L. Rytas lead after 10 minutes. Laurent Foirest and Traore tried to change things early in the second quarter and free throws by Reynolds made it a 6-point game. L. Rytas found a go-to guy in Lukauskis, who followed free throws with consecutive triples as Asvel called timeout at 39-27. Even after Reynolds made Asvel's first three-pointer, Lukauskis stayed on fire. Eidson provided a highlight with an unbelievable reverse layup that Lukauskis followed with a breakaway dunk. A layup by Bjelica and a free throw by Donatas Zavackas fixed the halftime score at 52-36.
Traore dunked it after the break, but L. Rytas stayed focused and kept attacking the basket. Bjelica followed free throws with a layup and soon a triple by Eidson made it a 19-point game. Reynolds answered from downtown and Campbell threw down a slam, but the hosts did not panic. Lukauskis took over with a huge dunk-and-foul in traffic and Milisavljevic scored to make it 64-46. Dewar stepped up with 5 quick points and Amara Sy swished a jumper, but Eidson and Petravicius kept the hosts way ahead, 70-56, after 30 minutes. Lukauskis and Zavackas struck from downtown right at the start of the fourth quarter and even when Traore stayed hot, he didn't find much help around. Meanwhile, free throws by Zavackas and Michailas Anisimovas practically sealed the outcome, 81-59, with six minutes to go. Everything was said and done as Lietuvos Rytas confirmed its status as one of the teams to beat in the 2008-09 Eurocup season.
Monday, November 24, 2008