Barcelona has left behind its questionable start to the Euroleague season and joined the Group B contenders for real on Thursday with a commanding 77-87 road victory at Ulker in Istanbul. Barcelona pooled its vast array of talent such that Ullker did not know where the next big shot, rebound or assist was coming from. Juan Carlos Navarro led Barcelona early and finished with a team-high 18 points. Arturas Karnisovas added 15 and Ademola Okulaja 13 for the winners. A 24-point show by Harun Erdenay went to waste for Ulker, as did 13 by Miljan Goljovic and 12 by Kerem Golum. Barcelona is suddenly 4-2 and tied for second place with Union Olimpija and Opel Skyliners, while Ulker loses its second straight and falls to 3-3.
Barcelona had a perfect first quarter, especially on defense. An aggressive man-to-man full of double teams and help all over the court charged up the visitors and did what it was meant to, avoid any early leads by Ulker. At the other end, Barcelona had Juan Carlos Navarro, whose running shots were unstoppable and constantly falling through the net. At one point, Barcelona's lead climbed to 13 points, and Navarro would finish the quarter with 11 points. That was just four fewer than all of Ulker's team as Barcelona staked a double-digit lead, 15-25, after 10 minutes.
Ulker started the second period with a mind to stop all that Barcelona scoring, but was not very successful. Ulker captain Harun Erdenay took responsibility for his team on the offensive end, scoring 12 for his team. But that didn't avoid Barcelona keeping control of the game or from scoring. Ulker's top rebounder, Quadre Lollis, was off his game, and what Barcelona did not get on the first shot they usually did on the second. With little direct challenge to the lead by Ulker, the visitors led at the half 35-47. They had already doubled the Turkish team in rebounds, 12-25.
In the third period, Barcelona continued strong, took offensive rebounds with Okulaja both starting and finishing fastbreaks. The Spanish team broke down the Ulker pressure easily. But the young power forward of Ulker, Kerem Gonlum balanced the rebounds and helped his team stay equalon the inside at least. Gonlum was able to reduce the difference to 6 points, 50-56, but Barcelona scored nine of the next 13 points, as an Okulaja dunk and Rodrigo De la Fuente steal made it 54-65. Ulker made a stand with Golum going up to 12 points, Erdenay hitting a three and two free throws, and Muratcan Guler sliding by the defense for a reverse layup at the buzzer, cutting the Barcelona lead to 63-68.
Ulker tried to consolidate those gains with a zone to start the fourth quarter. Barcelona answered with an alley-hoop dunk from Sarunas Jasikevicius to Alain Digbeu, a layup by Alfonso Alzamora and a three-pointer by Nikos Ekonomou. By the time Digbeu added his own three and a pair of foul shots, the lead was up to 63-80 and Ulker was not coming back in this game.
Thursday, November 15, 2001