| A resurgent Asvel Basket won its third consecutive game and boosted its Top 16 changes by registering a 61-68 decision over Fenerbahce Ulker in Istanbul on Wednesday to take hold of third place in Group A. Both teams are now 3-4, but Asvel's victory avenged a painful early-season OT home loss to Fenerbahce by enough points to ensure the French champs a decisive tie-break advantage should one be needed between them at the end of the season. Defense was the recipe for Asvel, whose 8 steals and 5 blocks proved the difference, especially down the stretch. Asvel trailed by double-digits in the first half, but turned the game around with a 6-22 run that lasted into the third quarter. Kristjan Kangur led Asvel with 16 points, while Rawle Marshall added 15 and 6 rebounds. Mindaugas Lukauskis and Ali Traore chipped in 12 points each for the winners. Fenerbahce got 11 points each from Omer Asik and Lynn Greer while Gordan Giricek chipped in 10, but only Damir Mrsic, with 7 points, had any impact for the hosts in the game's last 5 minutes.
Asik got the scoring started with a breakaway dunk for Fenerbahce on the game's very first play. Then, however, the defenses took over. Between quick shots, turnovers and solid defense, neither team could put the ball in the basket for the next 4 minutes, until a timeout gave both coaches a chance to regroup their charges. Immediately after the timeout, Asvel got on the board with a dunk by Traore. It wasn't long before Bobby Dixon gave Asvel its first lead, 2-4, on a fastbreak layup. Greer tied at the foul line for Fenerbahce, then the points started rolling. Kangur and Lukauskis put back offensive rebounds for Asvel around a driving layup by Emir Preldzic for the hosts. When Greer hit 2 more free throws, there was an 8-8 tie. Marshall joined Asvel's scorers with a twisting layup. Tarence Kinsey kept Fenerbahce perfect at the line, then added a fall-away one-hander to put the hosts up again, 12-10. Greer fed Asik for a basket in the paint. Aymeric Jeanneau ended Asvel's slide, but Greer came back with a triple that left Fenerbahce leading 16-14 after 10 minutes.
Jeanneau popped for 3 points from the corner to give back the lead to Asvel on the first shot of the second quarter. Fenerbahce went inside and found big man Oguz Savas for a pair of baskets, however, before Kinsey's driving layup made it 22-17. Fenerbahce's defense kept confounding Asvel's shooters, while Giricek got into the scoring column for the hosts with a three-point basket-plus-free throw at 25-17. Marshall stopped the bleeding with a jumper for Asvel. Kangur and Traore followed him with baskets, but between them, Savas dropped a triple and an inside shot as Fenerbahce lengthened the lead into double digits, 34-23, on a new layup by Giricek. Lukauskas stepped up then to save Asvel with 5 consecutive points, including a nifty baseline layup, that cut the lead to 34-29. Bangaly Fofana added a free throw before the half ended with Fenerbahce clinging to a 34-30 lead.
Asvel's defense limited Fenerbahce to a free throw during the first 4 minutes of the third quarter as the visitors completed their comeback with a 1-9 run based on layups by Traore, Kangur and Dixon that made it 35-39. Fenerbahce used a triple by Greer to stop its slide, but Kangur and Traore stayed strong. When Kangur jammed in a miss, Asvel was sitting on a 40-45 advantage following a 6-22 swing on the scoreboard since midway through the second quarter. Fenerbahce rallied with free throws by Greer and a pair of dunks by Asik, but in between Lukauskas landed a triple to keep Asvel a step ahead at 47-49 after 30 minutes.
After the fourth quarter started with yet another dunk by Asik to forge a tie at 49-49, Asvel again found a go-to guy in Kangur, who lined up and stuck a three-pointer to keep the guests in charge. On an inbounds play a minute later, Giricek came off a screen to tie the game in one shot from the top of the circle. Asvel wouldn't give in, however. Marshall hit a jumper from the lane and then got to the foul line to raise his team's lead to 52-56. Asvel made a crucial mistake in leaving Mrsic open to hit a triple, but the visitors found Traore inside to stay ahead before Mrsic got loose on the break to make it 57-58 with 4 minutes left. Another series of loose balls ended with Marshall spinning on the break for a layup at 57-60. Mrsic was in charge now for the hosts, hitting 2 more free throws, but Asvel got a driving layup in response from Lukauskis. Fenerbahce got a couple chances to change things going into the last 2 minutes, but a big steal by Dixon led to a crucial loss of time for the hosts. With 22 seconds left, Fenerbahce sent Dixon to the line, where he made 2 of 2 to make it 59-64. Kinsey scored fast, but with 13 seconds, Kangur made 1 of 2 to assure the victory and give Asvel new chances to reach the Top 16!
Wednesday, December 9, 2009