Lietuvos Rytas remained alive in the chase for a spot in the Quarterfinal Playoffs with a dramatic come-from-behind 87-84 victory over Fenerbahce Ulker on Wednesday night at the Siemens Arena in Vilnius, Lithuania. Mindaugas Lukauskis was the hero with a clutch three-pointer with a minute remaining that put his team up 5 and then an offensive rebound with 10 seconds remaining that allowed L. Rytas to kill the clock and deny Fenerbahce a chance to send the game to overtime. L. Rytas improved to 2-3 in Group E, the same record as Fenerbahce. But because L. Rytas was unable to erase the margin-of-victory from the Turkish champs’ 95-91 victory in Istanbul two weeks ago, Fenerbahce holds the potential tiebreaker in its hands. The visitors were in control for most of the night, holding double-digit leads in the second and third quarter. Even after the hosts took a brief lead late in the third quarter, Tarence Kinsey and Willie Solomon led a Fenerbahce charge and the visitors went up 9 early in the fourth quarter. But Hollis Price pushed his team all the time and with a passionate crowd behind them, L. Rytas chipped away at the lead as the game came down to the final minute, where the hosts were able to snatch the win. Price drilled 5 three-pointers on his way to a game-high 22 points, Chuck Eidson added 16, Kenan Bajramovic 15, Jackson Vroman 12 and Arturas Jomantas scored 10. Kinsey paced Fenerbahce with 20 points and Solomon finished with 18 points and 6 assists.
The hosts won the opening tip, but Fenerbahce got on the scoreboard first through Oguz Savas. The visitors’ aggressive interior defense denied L. Rytas twice before Eidson cut through for a basket-plus-foul. Both teams missed a few free throws in the early going. Bajramovic kept the hosts on top before Omer Onan knotted the score at 7-7. Then the big men began trading baskets, with Vroman’s dunk matched by a Gasper Vidmar layup. Rasim Basak drilled a triple – his first of the Top 16 – and followed it with a long jumper as Fener took an 11-14 lead. Vroman made a free throw, but despite the hosts’ showing full-court pressure, Solomon beat the L. Rytas defense downcourt for an easy basket. The lead grew even more on another Onan triple, but this time Eidson answered with a long jumper. Vidmar barreled over Bajramovic for his third foul and found himself on the Fenerbahce bench, but while L. Rytas’s guards missed open jumpers, the visitors continued to roll. Solomon recorded a steal that led to a three-pointer and Semih Erden corrected an Onan miss with a slam as Fenerbahce finished the first period ahead 18-26.
Price opened the second period with a triple, but Basak matched him from downtown. Threes continued to rain down as Jomantas scored from the win for the home team, James White hit for Fener and then Eidson answered. Then Omer Asik scored three the hard way to put his team up 29-35. Missed free throws continued to plague both teams, and it seemed to rub off on their other shots too. A Kinsey triple ended a nearly three-minute stretch without a field goal for both teams and gave Fenerbahce its first double-digit advantage. L. Rytas used a timeout to talk things over, but head coach Aleksandar Trifunovic had no solution for his team’s poor shooting. The pace suddenly changed in the last two minutes of the half, with Price and Martynas Gecevicius making threes for the hosts and White and Kinsey doing the same for the visitors. White kept his team up by 10 with free throws, but Price scored in transition to make it 38-46 at halftime.
Onan got Fenerbahce going after the break with a three-pointer. Bajramovic sank 2 free throws for L. Rytas’s first points of the half, but an emphatic Erden slam kept the visitors in control. Jomantas attacked the lane for a basket-plus-foul that revved up the crowd and Bajramovic added a triple that brought the hosts within 3. Vroman committed his fourth foul and needed to sit, but his replacement, Michalis Ansimovas, scored on the offensive glass to cap a 10-0 run that made it 50-51. Kinsey saved Fener with a long jumper and Solomon soon added a pull-up jumper. Bajramovic stepped up for L. Rytas, scoring and then dishing to Eidson for a three that tied the game at 55-55. Kinsey came through with a steal and slam, but Jomantas tied it from the line and then Eidson’s reverse layup gave L. Rytas its first lead since early in the first quarter. However Fener fought back as Asik converted an alley-oop and Kinsey and Solomon drilled three-pointers for a 0-8 run that made it 59-65. In between those triples, Asik rejected a Bajramovic attempt that gave him the all-time Top 16 record for blocked shots with 18. A timeout re-energized the hosts as Eidson scored and was fouled, but Solomon answered with baskets on the next two plays – including a triple – to make it 63-70 at the end of the third period.
Kinsey was fouled shooting a three and though he only made 2 of the resulting 3 free throws, Fener’s lead continued to grow. Price cut the gap to 6 with a triple and then Bajramovic revived the fans with free throws, however Solomon was cool from the line for the visitors. Erden silenced the crowd with a nifty move inside only to see Vroman stand tall with back-to-back baskets to bring his team within 72-76. Solomon found an open Emir Preldzic for a triple, but Price bombed right back. Then Jomantas scored on the offensive glass and after Solomon lost the ball, Price fired in his fifth three to put L. Rytas up 80-79 with just over three minutes to go. The drama continued to grow. Onan missed twice from the line, but Solomon stole the ball and cut to the basket. However Jomantas came from behind to block the shot and instead Lukauskis drew Preldzic’s fifth foul. Lukauskis made the free throws, but he was matched by Kinsey. Then Price went to the line and made 1 and Solomon did the same. Vroman fouled out with two minutes to go and his team ahead 83-82. Price again made only 1 from the line, but Solomon fumbled the ball out of bounds. After a timeout, Lukauskis blew up the arena with a triple that made it 87-82 with a minute remaining. Kinsey immediately answered with a triple of his own and after a successful Fenerbahce defensive stand, Solomon was called for a controversial offensive foul. L. Rytas took the ball back with 12 seconds separating the shot clock from the game clock. Price wound the clock down, and dished to Eidson, who was blocked by Asik. Price got the ball back and missed a short jumper, but Lukauskis saved the rebound and passed it out, allowing the clock to expire as L. Rytas remained alive.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008