Winterthur Barcelona got back on the winning track with a 61-71 win over Group B leader Lietuvos Rytas on Wednesday in Vilnius, Lithuania. Juan Carlos Navarro and Bootsy Thornton scored 18 and 14 points, respectively, as Barca improved to 5-5 and moved into fourth place. The defeat ended a seven-game winning streak for the ULEB Cup champs. L. Rytas fell to 7-3, allowing Efes Pilsen, which downed Olympiacos earlier in the evening, to move into a share of the group lead. Barcelona led by 6 at halftime, before Fred House led a comeback early in the third quarter. However Mikalis Kakiouzis and Denis Marconato took part in a 7-0 run that restored the visitors' lead and Shammond Williams put things away in the fourth. Kakiouzis and Gregor Fucka added 12 apiece for the winners, who were without Gianluca Basile and Rodrigo De la Fuente. Thornton also had 9 rebounds and Williams finished with 9 points and 5 assists. Robertas Javtokas led L. Rytas with 13 points, 14 rebounds and 4 blocks, while Frederick House and Haris Mujezinovic added 11 each. L. Rytas was without Simas Jasaitis and Roberts Stelmahers for most of the game after they both suffered first-half injuries and didn't return.
L. Rytas got on the board first on a Matt Nielsen free throw, but Gregor Fucka answered with a layup to make 1-2. Stelmahers, Nielsen and Javtokas guided the hosts on a 7-0 run before Navarro got Barcelona's offense going with a triple. Javtokas scored back-to-back baskets, but Fucka raced the visitors back with 9 unanswered points to make it 12-16, forcing coach Neven Spahija to call a timeout. Javtokas stayed hot, rejecting a Marconato attempt, but L. Rytas failed to convert it into the points, while Fucka continued to score on the other end. Mujezinovic broke a shooting slump with a three-pointer and added one more basket to close the first quarter at 20-23 for visitors.
After a Bootsy Thornton layup, L. Rytas began to cut the margin with a triple by Mindaugas Lukauskis. The home team suffered a blow when Jasaitis and Stelmahers left with injuries, but Barca turnovers prevented the visitors from pulling away. Kakiuozis and Shammond Williams's baskets kept Barcelona on top 30-33 before Tomas Delininkaitis tied the score with a three-pointer from the corner. L. Rytas experimented with a man-to-man defense, but it did not work well as Kakiouzis nailed two from downtown and Navarro threw in a very difficult layup to push the visitors to 34:41. L. Rytas struggled on the offensive side until Javtokas stepped up with an incredible three-pointer. However Kakiouzis ensured a Barcelona lead at the break when he scored inside to end the half with his team leading 37-43.
Halftime clearly benefited the hosts as House started strong with an acrobatic layup and a three-point play. Javtokas then scored an easy basket, which prompted Barcelona coach Dusko Ivanovic to call a timeout with his team ahead just 44-45. Whatever he told his players inspired them, as a different squad retuned. Williams fed Marconato for a dunk, Kakiuozis scored in the paint and Marconato added another slam for a 7-0 spurt to return Barca's control. A two-minute scoring drought ensued, which House ended with a layup and two free throws that cut the margin to 48-53. But the end of the third quarter belonged to Barcelona as Thornton hit a turnaround jumper that made it 48-55 after three period.
Barcelona did not slow down in the last quarter and Thornton got it going with a layup. Barcelona reached a double-digit lead for the first time in the game after Navarro made a jumper, however House scored one from the line and Andrius Slezas drove inside for a basket to get as close as 52-59. Williams stayed tuned and went coast-to-coast for a score and Navavrro copied him on the next possession that boosted the visitors' lead back to 52-63 with 5 minutes to go. Marconato was whistled for his fourth foul, but Nielsen converted it only to one point. And then Marconato fouled out. Nielsen reduced the margin with 4 points – all from the line – but Thornton struck back with penetration. Both teams exchanged free throws, while L. Rytas tried to initiate a comeback with shots from behind the arc, but found everything but the net. The last minute belonged to red-hot Williams, who made the jumper that buried the hosts' hopes as Barcelona recorded the 61-71 victory.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006