Fenerbahce Ulker stayed alive in the Top 16 race and set up a big showdown in Group C next week by downing Winterthur FC Barcelona 82-69 in Istanbul, Turkey on Thursday. Fenerbahce improved to 5-7 and will face Eldo Napoli, with the same record, in the next-to-last regular season game next week. Meanwhile, Barcelona dropped to 8-4 in the Group C standings and cannot challenge for first place now. Kaspars Kambala led the winners with 20 points and Will Solomon was a hero with all his 19 points in the final 15 minutes. Ibrahim Kutluay added 11 points for Fenerbahce. Fran Vazquez had 17 points for Barcelona, Jaka Lakovic 13 and Gianluca Basile 12. Barcelona played without injured Euroleague leading scorer Juan Carlos Navarro. Lakovic and Vazquez paced Barcelona to a 32-43 lead early in the third quarter, before Solomon joined forces with Kambala to give Fenerbahce a 53-52 edge after 30 minutes and extended it to 69-59 with 5 minutes to go, enough to seal the outcome.
Barcelona opted to use a tall lineup in the early going with Jordi Trias as small forward. Kutluay opened fire with a three-pointer but Lakovic answered by stroking in a pair from downtown for a 3-6 Barcelona lead. Fenerbahce tried to attack the basket, but without much success due to early turnovers. Meanwhile, Lakovic kept pacing Barcelona with a driving layup while Rodrigo De La Fuente added a put-back layup for a 3-10 advantage. Kutluay lifted the hosts by firing in a triple off a screen but Basile did the same for Barcelona. Kutluay's driving layup was also matched by Fran Vazquez dropping a baseline jumper. Damir Mrsic and Ira Clark brought Fenerbahce and its fans back to life with consecutive three-pointers to make it 14-15. Lakovic buried his third triple in response, and even when Semih Erden got loose for a dunk, Basile nailed another shot from downtown on the buzzer to give Barcelona a 16-20 edge after 10 minutes.
De La Fuente scored in the paint to start the second quarter scoring, but Kambala soon posted a tip-in and a layup to get Fenerbahce within 20-22. Basile took over with a fallaway jumper but a red-hot Kambala matched it by putting back an offensive rebound. Lakovic hit free throws and Vazquez a jump hook for a 22-28 Barcelona lead, but Kambala kept the hosts within striking distance. But when Vazquez downed a jump hook and a mid-range jumper, Fenerbahce needed a timeout to try to figure out Barcelona's improved defense. Two more visitors scored then, Roger Grimau in penetration and Denis Marconato inside, to finish a 3-12 run with an 11-point lead, 25-36. Fenerbahce needed to react, and so it did, as Mrsic buried a triple and Kambala a second-chance layup. Now, Barcelona needed the timeout, but it didn't help as Erden capped a 7-0 Fenerbahce run to finish the half with an acrobatic drive that left a 32-36 scoreboard at the break.
Basile buried his trademark triple coming off a screen right after the break while Vazquez added a short jumper to put Barcelona seemingly out of trouble at 32-41. Fenerbahce went scoreless for more than 2 minutes while Marconato made free throws to cap a 0-7 run, good for another double-digit advantage, 32-43. Kambala answered at the line, however, and Erden dunked again to spark another Fenerbahce revival. That's when Will Solomon finally found his first basket while Kambala capped a 8-0 run with a left-handed layup that forced a Barcelona timeout at 40-43. Roko-Leni Ukic made free throws for the guests but Solomon's strike from the arc brought the hosts even closer. Ukic shined with a driving layup but Oguz Savas bettered it with a layup-plus-free throw. Vazquez buried another shot but Kutluay rained a triple and Solomon added a floating jumper to tie, 50-50. Michalis Kakiouzis got loose underneath for a layup to put Barcelona in front momentarily before Omer Onan beat the buzzer with a three-pointer to fire up the home crowd with Fenerbahce's first lead since the opening basket, 53-52.
Kambala opened the final quarter with another layup as Vazquez returned to the bench with four fouls. Solomon added a driving basket to make the crowd go crazy at 57-52. Ukic fired in a triple but a second-chance basket by Clark kept Fenerbahce ahead, 59-55. Barcelona called timeout but Solomon came back with a huge triple for a 62-55 Fenerbahce lead. Barcelona could not find the way to the basket while a red-hot Solomon fired in a long two-pointer to make it 64-55, with 5 minutes to go. Basile tried to ignite a Barcelona comeback with a mid-range jumper but Clark answered from downtown for a 67-57 Fenerbahce margin. Vazquez hit a jumper but Kambala showed that fate was with Fenerbahce by hitting an acrobatic layup while landing on his back. Barcelona ran out of time as Solomon - who else? - finished the show with back-to-back three-pointers as Fenerbahce fans celebrated their team's continuing fight to make the Top 16!
Thursday, January 18, 2007