Tau Ceramica capped a special night for the club by topping Fenerbahce Ulker 80-70 in the 2008-09 Euroleague Basketball Opening Game held at a fully-packed Fernando Buesa Arena in Vitoria, Spain, on Monday night. Igor Rakocevic paced the winners with 24 points, 20 of them before halftime. Will McDonald added 17 on 7-for-7 shooting and had 8 rebounds plus 5blocks, while Pete Mickeal posted 15 points and 8 rebounds for Tau. Devin Smith scored 13 points for Fener, Oguz Savas and Rasim Basak each added 11 and Mirsad Turkcan got 10 for an injury-plagued for Fenerbahce, which was without four key players - Omer Asik, Omer Onan, Gordan Giricek and Semih Erden. Turkcan and an outstanding three-pointer by Damir Mrsic allowed the visitors to take a 19-21 edge after 10 minutes. Mickeal shined early in the second quarter and Rakocevic followed a layup with back-to-back triples for a 42-34 Tau margin at halftime. Tau improved its intensity at both ends right after the break, led by Mickeal and an outstanding McDonald. Basak, Smith and Savas brought Fenerbahce as close as 70-68 with three minutes to go, but Rakocevic and Mirza Teletovic stepped up big to win it for Tau. The opening game commemorated Saski Baskonia's 50th anniversary. Tau Ceramica invited many former players and coaches to the game, as well as having aurreskus - traditional Basque folk dances - before the game and during halftime. Tau Ceramica unveiled its state-of-the-art BAKH Sports Complex earlier in the day, just meters away from Buesa Arena.
Gasper Vidmar had the honor of scoring first in the 2008-09 Euroleague season on an easy layup, but Rakocevic immediately answered from downtown for a 3-2 Tau lead. Turkcan shined with a left-handed layup and Basak added a five-meter jumper to put Fener back ahead 3-6. Rakocevic sank his second triple, but Emir Preldzic and Marques Green stepped up to give the guests a 6-11 lead. Mustafa Shakur sank a baseline jumper only to see Basak bettered that with one from downtown, good for a 10-14 Fener lead. Stanko Barac took over with a jump hook, but Mickeal had troubles against Turkcan's outstanding defense. He finally found his first points on a layup-plus-foul to put Tau back ahead, 15-14. Fenerbahce called timeout, but Rakocevic capped a 7-0 run with an easy basket. Turkcan stepped up with his trademark put-back layup and Smith added a second-chance basket. Mickeal kept pacing Tau with free throws, however Damir Mrsic took over with a wild triple to give Fenerbahce a 19-21 edge after 10 minutes.
Green finished a third-chance Fenerbahce offense with a tip-in as the guests kept dominating the offensive board. Barac and Mickeal got Tau going consecutive jumpers to tie the game at 23-23. Green silenced the crowd with a three-pointer, which Pablo Prigioni matched with a seven-meter bomb. He soon found Teletovic for a dunk on a high post pick-and-roll. Preldzic provided a highlight with a lightning quick fast break layup, as Tau had already entered the foul bonus midway through the second quarter. Fernando San Emeterio shined with a reverse layup, but Turkcan followed a long jumper with a great move in the low post for a 30-32 Fener edge. McDonald had a huge block on Smith and a layup in the other end while Rakocevic scored off a steal, but a layup by Oguz Savas tied it again at 32-32. Rakocevic sank a mid-range shot off a timeout and immediately buried consecutive three-pointers to set Buesa Arena on fire and give Tau a 42-34 halftime margin, after a 10-2 run.
Vidmar provided a highlight with a tremendous two-handed, put-back dunk early in the third quarter and Smith sank a mid-range jumper to get Fener within 46-38. Mickeal struck from downtown and Tau improved its defense, taking the game to a more physical level. Smith kept pacing Fener but did not find much help around. Tau now controlled the defensive boards while McDonald dunked it for a 52-41 margin. Turkcan hit free throws once Tau had an early entry in the foul bonus, but McDonald erased them with a jumper and Shakur scored off a steal to break the game open, 56-42. McDonald took over with a wild block on Hakan Demirel and even when head coach Bogdan Tanjevic called a much-needed timeout, Tau was all over the place now. Fenerbahce tried an effective 2-3 zone defense while Savas and Mrsic gave the guests some fresh air with consecutive layups. McDonald collected a steal and scored in the other end, but Basak brought Fener within single digits, 59-50. A three-point play by McDonald and a final basket by Savas fixed the score at 62-52 after 30 minutes.
Preldzic shined with a driving layup early in the fourth quarter, but Tau stopped struggling against the guests' 2-1-2 zone defense. McDonald took over with a put-back dunk and a mid-range jumper, good for a 66-54 Tau margin. Savas rescued Fenerbahce with a layup and Basak fired in his third three-pointer to bring the guests within 66-59. Rakocevic found his first points in the second half, but Smith answered with a three-point play to cause Tau to call timeout at 68-62. Fener missed critical shots from downtown right in crunch time, but Savas sank his first attempt to make it a 4-point game, 69-65, with over four minutes to go. McDonald made a free throw and blocked Turkcan's floating layup attempt. Mrisc, however, sank a running triple to get Fener back in the game, 70-68. Teletovic answered from downtown while Rakocevic added an alley-oop layup for a 75-68 edge, with 1:48 remaining. Smith scored again already in the final minute, but it was too little, too late for Fenerbahce, as the Tau fans were already celebrating a big, special home win.
Monday, October 20, 2008