KK Cibona Zagreb broke open a close game with stellar defense to defeat Cholet of France 77-70 in Vilnius on Thursday to advance in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Qualifying Rounds. Cibona will play the winner of host Lietuvos Rytas vs. KK Buducnost in Saturday's second round. Cibona trailed 47-53 midway through the third quarter but held Cholet to only free throws for more than 13 minutes while turning the scoreboard in its favor, 71-61, and holding on for victory. Antwain Barbour led the winners with 16 points, while Demonte Harper had 13, Damjan Rudez 11 and Brian Chase 10. For Cholet, Talor Battle pumped in 23 points and Fabien Causeur 14, but low shooting percentages except for at the foul line hurt the losers.
Chase split the defense before a trio of dunks -by Jure Lalic for Cibona, Luc-Arthur Vebobe and Romain Duport for Cholet- tied it up 4-4. The teams continued trading baskets as Vebobe's acrobatic layup and Andrija Zisis's basket-plus-free throw for Cibona forged another tie, 11-11. Cholet pushed ahead to the game's biggest lead yet, 13-17, on Battle's 4 consecutive points. Barbour answered with his own 4 straight points, including a rim-swinging dunk, before Harper's corner triple gave Cibona a brief lead, 20-19. But free throws by Demetrius Nichols left Cholet in front, 20-21, after a very even 10 minutes.
A steal-and-dunk combo by Harper regained the lead for Cibona to start the second quarter, but Battle made the next spectacular shot, a hang-time reverse. However, his follow-up triple was answered within seconds by Rudez. Battle wasn't impressed and hit a fade-away three-pointer from out top - nothing but net! After Cibona tied again, another circus shot - this one by Fabien Causeur - came with a free throw that put Cholet up 29-32. Yet another tie was broken by Randall Falker's free throws for Cholet but Rudez answered with a layup-plus-free throw that put Cibona back up, 37-36. Cholet closed out the half stronger, however, clinging to a 39-40 edge at the break.
It remained a neck-and-neck scoreboard after halftime until a technical foul on Case got Battle back on the scoreboard and Causeur blasted a triple to make it 47-53, forcing a Cibona timeout. With some tough defense, Cibona proceeded to turn things around by going to Goran Suton for 3 baskets inside before Rudez finished a 12-3 takeover run with a pair of layups that had Cibona in front 59-56 after 30 minutes.
Cibona's defense continued to rule as its lead stretched to 65-56 as Suton continued scoring. Cibona held Cholet scoreless for more than 6 minutes while lengthening its lead to 67-56 on Pavle Marcinkovic's driving layup. Derrick Byars finally broke Cholet's scoring drought by hitting 2 of 3 free throws. But foul shots was all that Cholet got while Harper drilled a triple to make it 70-59 for Cibona. Cholet tried full-court pressure, which disrupted Cibona, and finally got its first points without free throws in more than 13 minutes when Battle finished a fastbreak with 1:41 to play. It was 71-63 then, and after a Cibona timeout, Caseur went coast to coast for another basket, cutting the difference to 6 points. Forced to foul, Cholet put Rudez on the line, and when his second free throw missed, Causeur rained a three-pointer to make it 72-68 with 1:05 to play, but Barbour and Chase were perfect at the line and Cibona advanced to the next do-or-die game in Vilnius.
Thursday, September 29, 2011