Partizan Igokea and center Nikola Pekovic continued their amazing start to the season with a 91-86 win over Lottomatica Roma on Wednesday night at Pionir Arena in Belgrade, Serbia. Pekovic, who never scored 20 points in a game before this season, topped the mark for the fourth time in five games with 21 points and 8 rebounds as the Serbian champs held off a stiff Roma challenge to improve to 3-2. Partizan now sits in third place in Group C and will visit Brose Baskets Bamberg next week. Roma fell to 1-4 and will host AXA Barcelona next week. Partizan never trailed in the second half, but Roma hung around till the very end. Novica Velickovic and Milenko Tepic stepped up late and Partizan benefited from Gregor Fucka's awful free-throw shooting to seal the win. Velickovic posted 16 points and 10 rebounds, Milt Palacio had 15 points and 6 assists and Dusan Kecman scored 14 for Partizan. Jon Stefansson led Roma with 17 points, David Hawkins added 16, Roko-Leni Ukic 15 and Allan Ray and Erazem Lorbek scored 14 apiece.
The Partizan fans welcomed Lottomatica general manager Dejan Bodiroga before the game started and then Ukic got things going for Roma before Pekovic struck back for Partizan with a three-point play. Stefansson fired first bomb and Ukic secured an early lead with points from the line. Partizan had lot of problems guarding Roma's perimeter players and Petar Bozic soon replaced Palacio and went on to give his team an 11-9 lead midway through the period. On the other side Ukic and Hawkins scored for Lottomaticaonly to see Uros Tripkovic tie the score with Partizan's first triple. Pekovic nailed 6 points before he was replaced with Slavko Vranes, who had the task of controlling the paint. The result was 5 straight points from Velickovic and two successful defenses at the Partizan side. Ray hit a three-pointer in the closing seconds of the first period, which ended 25-26 for Lotomattica thanks to 8 points from Ukic.
Pekovic and Fucka traded baskets early in the second period, but the Partizan big man added one more. Palacio joined him with basket in transition, forcing Roma head coach Jasmin Repesa to call timeout. After a minute's break, Hawkins scored from a third-chance attack. Palacio gave Partizan a 34-30 lead with a three-point play, which Ray cut scoring from the penalty line. The hosts converted 3 Roma turnovers into 7 points to take a 9-point lead. Lorbek managed to score 4 straight points for Lottomatica and it was Partizan who called timeout to keep the momentum. Lorbek continued to score and after Roberto Gabini nailed a jumper, Roma led 50-51. Bozic scored from behind the arc in last minute of the first half and the players went to locker room for a break with the hosts ahead 54-51.
Hawkins tied the score at the very beginning of third period. Partizan tightened its defense and used an 8-0 run led by Tepic and Pekovic to get back ahead. Then Stefansson woke up with 3 points, cutting the gap to 62-59 midway through the quarter. Lorbek payed the price for double-teaming Pekovic and fell into foul trouble with his fourth personal. It became a big problem for Lottomatica, which came to Belgrade with only 10 players. Tripkovic punished guests with a bomb and soon Partizan was 8 points ahead. But Pekovic was replaced by Vranes, who made several mistakes allowing Stefansson to score 4 straight points from the line and Partizan's lead was cut to 72-70 at the end of third period.
Velickovic opened the final period with a bomb. Palacio added a slam as Lottomatica was left scoreless for more than two minutes. Finally Ray netted 2 from the line. He promptly added a jumper showing that the guests were still alive. But Palacio did not think so. After his three-point play, Alessandro Tonolli fouled out and Partizan amassed a promising 84-77 lead in the middle of the fourth. But Palacio committed an unsportsmanlike foul that allowed Lotomattica to cut the gap as Hawkins scored 4 points from the line. The guests tried switching to zone, however Tepic scored and Partizan led 86-81 with three minutes left. Fucka missed 4 straight penalties before Velickovic galvanized the atmosphere by scoring from the line and sealing Partizan's third victory in this Euroleague Basketball season.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007