Cibona Zagreb re-opened a pathway to the playoffs on Wednesday by smashing hosts Fenerbahce Ulker 64-86 on the road in Istanbul to more than avenge its loss in the first game between the two teams in Croatia. Cibona improved its Group H record to 2-2, tying Montepaschi Siena for second place. Cibona can secure a playoff berth should it defeat Montepaschi in Siena next Thursday. Fenerbahce fell to 1-3 and is all but mathematically out of the playoff race: even victories in both remaining Top 16 games against CSKA and Montepaschi do not guarantee its survival. Fresh off its Croatian Cup victory on the weekend, Cibona was sharper all game, taking big leads early and defending them whenever Fenerbahce tried to rally. Backcourt scorers Davor Kus and Alan Anderson dominated for Cibona with 19 and 18 points, respectively. Big man Jared Homan was an almost perfect 8-for-10 from the field on his way to 16 points, while fellow big man Nikola Prkacin muscled in 10 points. For Fenerbahce, Oguz Savas was the top scorer with 13 points and Mirsad Turkcan notched 12 points and pulled down 7 rebounds. Fenerbahce never got focused, shooting a disastrous 2-for-14 on three-pointers and 3-for-12 on free throws in the 27-49 first half, after which Cibona kept control until the final buzzer.
Kus shot a jumper off the dribble to open the scoring and Rozic made it 0-4 with free throws before Savas dribbled through Cibona's full-court press to slam for Fenerbahce. That unglued the hosts' offense, and they proceeded to score layups on three consecutive possessions, two of them made by Gasper Vidmar, for their first lead, 8-6. Cibona answered with more free throws from Rozic and the game's first three-pointer, by Anderson at 8-11. Turkcan, the hero of Fenerbahce's Week 3 win in Zagreb, stepped on court for the first time at 10-13 but couldn't prevent Cibona from reeling off 7 unanswered points on Anderson's free throws, a Kus triple and Vedran Vukusic's first basket. At 10-20, Turkcan came through with his first make, but Fenerbahce couldn't buy a single free throw, missing all 6 of its first-quarter attempts from the line. Cibona punished that fault with a new 0-8 run capped by layup from Homan that, all of a sudden, let the visitors double Fenerbahce on the scoreboard, 14-28, after 10 minutes.
Turkcan opened the second quarter by showing his teammates how to shoot free throws, but Fenerbahce also left Kus open for a corner triple. Next, Early Calloway flew past Fenerbahce's defense for an acrobatic layup as Cibona took full control at 18-35. Emir Preldzic finally made a three-pointer for the hosts - their first after six misses - but Rozic answered with a smooth shot from way behind the arc and Anderson fed Prkacin for a dunk that made it 23-40. Fenerbahce kept releasing it from downtown and kept missing, giving Cibona fastbreak opportunities after the long rebounds as when Prkacin threw full-court to Rozic for a layup. Anderson kept Cibona rolling with a tough three-pointer over Marques Greene, and when Homan matched Fenerbahce's 4 points down the stretch, the visitors held a shocking 27-49 halftime lead.
Omer Oman opened the second half with a fastbreak layup for Fenerbahce, but Kus erased it with another jumper. Though the hosts were much more aggressive on defense now, Cibona stayed cool. Kus found Homan open underneath and soon was fouled as his own tough left-handed shot fell. He it the additional free throw to make it 29-56. Preldzic stepped up then for Fenerbahce, igniting an 8-0 run with 5 points and an assist to Gordan Giricek, whose triple cut the difference to 39-58. Cibona did what it often does on crucial possessions, getting the ball inside to Prkacin for a lefty hook. After Calloway followed with a triple, Prkacin another hook and Anderson a two-handed jam off a steal, Cibona was up 42-67 with 10 minutes to go.
Prkacin kept torturing Fenerbahce with his left hook at the start of the final quarter. Turkcan drilled a triple, Savas added a long two-pointer and Giricek a fastbreak layup to trim the lead to 50-69. Some of the home fans kept singing, even after Anderson drove for another layup, but they did so despite seeing where the game was headed. Though a three-pointer by Greene cut it to 54-71, Fenerbahce's closest distance in awhile, Homan made another layup look easy and Kus hit a two-pointer at 56-75. With only 4 minutes left on the clock, the spectators started to leave the Abdi Ipekci Sports Hall as Cibona calmly cruised to its biggest Euroleague win of the season.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009