Lottomatica Roma completed a comeback from the nether regions of Group C and advanced to the Top 16 by defeating host AXA F.C. Barcelona 75-77 on Wednesday for its fifth win in the last six games. Roma raised its record to 6-7, and since Cibona lost in Group B, those six victories became the new cutoff for entry into the Top 16. Despite not playing on Wednesday, Fenerbahce Ulker of Group C also advanced for the same reason. Barcelona, meanwhile, dropped to 8-5 and will have a hard time rising above third place now. Roma landed 11 of its first 13 three-pointers in the game, but missed its next 6 before Alan Ray hit the last one his team attempted to re-take the lead for good in the next-to-last minute. David Hawkins, who led the winners with 22 points, finished the job at the foul line. He made 5 of 6 two-pointers, 2 of 2 triples and 6 of 6 free throws on the night. Ray and Roko-Leni Ukic follwed with 12 points each, Roberto Gabini 11 and Rodrigo De la Fuente 10. For Barcelona, Gianluca Basile had 14 points, Fran Vazquez 12 and Alex Acker 11. The evening had started with De la Fuente among nine Barcelona legends honored at mid-court during a 50 Years of European Club Basketball ceremony.
Ray got Lottomatica on the board first with a fastbreak layup, while Barcelona struggled to hit even open shots in the early going. Gabini's layup meant a 0-4 Roma lead, and even when Basile answered from downtown, Hawkins scored to keep Roma ahead 2-6. Acker buried a triple from the top for Barcelona, but Ukic joined the three-point shootout for a 6-9 Roma edge. Trias provided a highlight with a power dunk but Erazem Lorbek stroked from downtown and Hawkins soon slammed to force a Barcelona timeout at 8-14. Vazquez sank a jumper and free throws. De la Fuente was awarded another big ovation when he stepped on court, but it was Lorbek's second triple that kept Roma ahead 12-17. Sanchez and De La Fuente traded points before Vazquez sank jumper to get Barcelona within 17-19. Ukic nailed a triple but so did Acker at the other end. Ukic insisted from downtown while a final basket by Acker fixed the score at 22-25 after 10 minutes.
Ukic stayed on fire and buried his third consecutive three-pointer right at the start of the second quarter. Vazquez tried to change the game momentum with a jump hook while Grimau scored in penetration to make Lottomatica call timeout at 26-28. Roma improved its defense right away but Barcelona was fully focused now. Lottomatica coach Jasmin Repesa tried to rotate players often to keep its up-tempo offense going. Ersan Ilyasova made free throws and soon added a power tip-in to make Barcelona regain the lead, 30-28. De La Fuente immediately answered in the other end, as Roma opted for a smaller lineup now. Hawkins sank foul shots and soon added a running jumper to put Roma back ahead, 30-35, after a 0-7 run. Denis Marconato sank his trademark mid-range jumper while Lakovic buried a shot off the dribble for a 34-35 Barcelona deficit. Ilyasova soon added a fast break layup to make Lottomatica call timeout at 36-35. Barcelona kept dominating the game with good defense, while Marconato followed a free throw with a basket in the paint to cap a 9-0 run that gave Barcelona a 39-35 halftime edge.
Acker blasted a three-pointer to open the second half. After Hawkins answered with a driving layup, Sanchez stole and hit his own basket, but Gabini came back down and drilled a triple for Rome. When he raised up again at the arc, Gabini's next shot from downtown made it 44-43 Hawkins was the next Roma player to launch from deep, and when that fell, the guests were ahead 44-46. Vazquez tied it at the free throw line, but here came Gabini again, alone up top, to blast his third triple of the quarter already. Vazquez fed Acker inside, but Ray's consecutive spinning layups, the second of which came with a free throw, boosted Roma in front by 48-54. Barcelona struck right back with free throws by Basile and a big triple from Lakovic. De la Fuente's jumper let Roma breathe and Fucka added his own from the baseline. De la Fuente ended the quarter with a hustling put-back as Roma staked a 56-60 lead afer 30 minutes.
After a quiet first minute, Basile's extra deep triple to start the final quarter set up Barcelona's go-ahead basket, a Jordi Trias layup at 61-60. Hawkins returned after a Roma timeout to re-take the lead with a running jumper, but Roger Grimau did the same on the break for Barcelona. Trias soon added free throws to make it 65-62, and though Hawkins got a jumper back, Lakovic missed both free throws on a technical foul called against Fucka. A slow couple minmutes ended with Hawkins at the line making 2 of 2 free throws for a new Roma lead, 65-66, with just over 4 minutes left. After a timeout, Basile took it back for Barcelona with another rainbow triple, and Grimau drove the lane for another basket that made it 70-66. Roma took timeout this time, and Lorbek hit a baseline jumper for the guests, who then stole and saw Ukic's go-ahead triple try rim out. A minute-long Barcelona possession ended without points, however, and Ray made the hosts pay with his go-ahead triple on a cross-court pass from Ukic with 1 minute, 12 seconds left. Next, with 16 seconds left, Ray took a huge offensive rebound and hit a pair of free throws to make it 70-73. Lakovic and De la Fuente traded free throws first, as did Basile and Hawkins, making it 74-77 when Lakovic went to the line with 3 seconds left. He made the first, missed the second, but Basile's turnaround jumper missed, as did Grimau's tip attempt on the buzzer.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008