Perhaps to the surprise of some, Adecco Asvel is co-leader of Group C after two weeks following its 87-80 home win Thursday in Villeurbanne against visiting Idea Slask Wroclaw of Poland. A 10-man game with a new end-of-game leader, guard Stevin Smith, was the formula for Asvel's second victory in as many tries. Now, the French champions join CSKA of Moscow at 2-0 at the head of Group C. Smith scored the final 11 points for Asvel to end a threat which saw Slask pull within 4 points with under 3 minutes left. Smith finished with 20 points total, 15 of those in the second half. Vasco Evtimov added 11 for the winners and Thierry Gadou 10. Andrius Giedraitis of Slask led all scorers with 24 points. Aleksandar Kul added 14, Randy Holcomb 11 and Richard Lugo 10, but the visitors nonetheless dropped to 0-2 in the standings.
Asvel put all hands on deck in the first quarters, with coach Phillip Herve calling on 10 different players. That had the double effect of maitining defensive pressure on Slask and getting the home team bench involved early in the offense. Indeed, Asvel would end up having 9 different scorers in the first half to keep the Slask defense guessing constantly. The ball moved and the points were distributed inside and out. With everyone contributing, Asvel had made it through the first quarter with a 26-19 lead and the seeds of a full team effort already sown.
The second quarter started similarly, with outside shots made by Simon Petrov and Harold Mrazek, one inside by Robert Guylas. But for the next 4 minutes, Asvel could only manage to hit free throws, 7 of them in all. In the meantime, Giedriatis was on fire for Slask, sinking 2 three-pointers and 4 free throws in that same span, leading a 7-17 run as the visitors closed to within 42-38 on the scoreboard. But now is when veterans Davor Marcelic and Andre Owens stepped up and led Asvel on its own run of 9-3 to close the quarter and the half leading comfortably, 41-51.
The third quarter, Asvel tried to go inside to preserve its lead, buy Guylas was hit with foul trouble, and soon Richard Lugo of Slask was taking advantage. Lugo put in three consecutive baskets to erase all most all of the deficit and leave the Polish champs just a basket away from a tie or a lead at 58-56. But now Slask lost its size advantage on Aleksandar Kuhl's fourth foul, midway thorugh the quarter, and the points dried up for the visitors. Owens emerged to key Asvel's reaction, scoring 4 points in a 12-3 finish that put the home team back in charge at 70-59 after 30 minutes.
Foul trouble soon squeezed Slask in the backcourt too, where Raimonds Miglieniks picked up his fourth foul. Slask coach Zvi Sherf had already tried Kestutis Marciulionis, signed in the previous 48 hours, but he had struggled with a pair of turnovers. Kuhl returned for the visitors, however, and gave new hope with 6 consecutive points that pulled Slask as close as 74-70. The margin hovered there for sever minutes, but Miglieneks now drew his fifth foul. That was like a signal to Smith, who proceeded to launch in a three-pointer that hurt the visitors. Then Smith taking charge during the last 2 minutes, scoring Asvel's 11 final points, 15 of his 20 in the final quarter, enough to wrap up his team's second victory in Group C.
Thursday, October 17, 2002