Nikola Pekovic converted a three-point play with 7.8 seconds remaining to lead Partizan Igokea to an 87-88 road win over French champion Chorale Roanne in a thrilling Group C matchup on Wednesday evening. The win sees Partizan improve to 2-0 for its best start to a Euroleague season in years. The Serbian champs are now tied with Panathinaikos for the group lead, though Real Madrid could also join them with a win on Thursday. Roanne, which was playing its first Euroleague home game in 50 years, fell to 1-1. Pekovic, Euroleague Basketball's Week 1 MVP, turned in another dominant performance inside, leading his team with 23 points and 7 rebounds. Partizan led by double figures early in the fourth quarter, but Marc Salyers and Brion Rush carried Roanne back. Marc-Antoine Pellin made it 84-85 with 51 seconds remaining and then Rush gave the hosts their first lead of the second half with a deep three-pointer. But after a timeout, Partizan went to Pekovic inside and he did not disappoint, scoring to tie the game, drawing Norman Nolan's fifth foul and then adding the go-ahead free throw with 7.8 seconds left. Roanne had one last chance, but Adam Hess missed a potential game-winner and Partizan celebrated another tough win. The key stat in the game was free-throw shooting: Partizan made 15 of 16 (93.7%), while Roanne made only 22 of 34 (64.7%). Milenko Tepic added 14 points for Partizan, Milt Palacio had 13 points and 6 assists, Dusan Kecman scored 12 and Cedomir Vitkovac and Uros Tripkovic scored 11 each. Rush led Roanne with 29 points, Salyers added 20 and Hess 11.
Roanne won the opening tip and went inside to Salyers, who scored the game's first points. Pekovic scored Partizan's first points with a jump hook on his team's first possession. Despite all the big guys, the game developed a good pace, with a Rush slam and another Pekovic score inside keeping things even at 6-6. Hess started to heat up with a triple and a second-chance basket, but Pekovic was simply dominant in the paint for the visitors. The pace of the game started to drop a bit due to a series of fouls, and Partizan used the opportunity to jump out to 12-19 on a Tepic triple, a Palacio penetration and another Pekovic basket in the paint. Roanne took a timeout and soon started to cut the deficit, first via a Rush three and then a pair of Pierric Poupet free throws. Rush tied the score with half a minute left and after a steal had a chance to restore the hosts' lead at the end of the period, but Slavko Vranes blocked his drive and the 10-minute mark passed with the score tied 23-23.
Neither team could pull away early in the second period. Partizan was generating points on the offensive glass, while on the other end, Saylers corrected his own shot and Hess hit from downtown to keep it tied at 29-29. Tripkovic struck from beyond the arc for Partizan and after several empty trips for both sides, Palacio converted an acrobatic three-point play and then dished to Pekovic inside to cap a 0-10 run as the visitors went ahead 29-39. Laurent Cazalon ended the run with a floater and after a Pekovic basket, Cazalon added a triple to get the fans back in the game. But Pekovic corrected his own miss to give himself 16 first-half points and Palacio ended the half with a free throw to make it 35-44.
Tepic pulled up for a short jumper at the start of the second half, but a confident-looking Rush drilled a long three to inspire the hosts. Tepic kept his team ahead by double figures with free throws, but Rush's reverse layup and later Hess's third three of the game kept Roanne going. Pellin went coast to coast for a layup to get within 47-54, but Vitkovac answered with a timely three. Salyers continued to attack and his fast break dunk combined with a Nolan basket to close in on Partizan. Rush made it 58-61 with a pair of free throws, but Dejan Boravnjak came right back with a foul-line jumper. Rush tried to take over, but instead forced up an airball. Pekovic banked one in at the other end as the hosts lost their momentum and the third quarter ended with Partizan leading 63-70.
Salyers went tight to work with a layup, but missed twice on the next trip. Tripkovic then hit a fade-away and Pekovic dropped in two layups as the visitors remained ahead by 10. Rush converted a loose ball into a crucial basket and then went to the line and made one after Petar Bozic committed an unsportsmanlike foul. Novica Velickovic fouled out and Saylers added a free throw to close it to 70-76. Roanne showed signs of taking over with some splendid moves, but failed to convert them to points. On the other end, Palacio buried a triple After a Roanne timeout, Nolan drilled a triple and the hosts had hope again. However Kecman's reverse layup and Tepic's basket on the break prevented the hosts from making their move. But Rush wasn't done. He converted an alley-oop layup and Nolan made a fade-away in the paint to the delight of the crowd as the gap was trimmed to 80-83 with two-and-a-half minutes to go. Palacio and Rush traded penetration layups, but then each misfired on the next trip. Pellin made it a 1-point game with 51 seconds remaining. Vitkovac was called for traveling on the next play and Rush answered with a clutch triple to put his team on top for the first time in the second half. Partizan naturally went to Pekovic, who scored and was fouled, tying the game at 87-87 with 7.8 seconds to go. He then made the resulting free throw that would prove to be the game-winner. Hess had a chance to win it with a triple at the buzzer, but he missed and Partizan celebrated its best start in years.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007