Gran Canaria Grupo Dunas used outstanding defense in its ULEB Cup return to down AEK Athens 63-57 at home in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain in Group A on Tuesday night. Gran Canaria joins a three-way tie atop the Group A standing with Sluc Basket Nancy and Lietuvos Rytas, who also won their respective game to get a 1-0 record, while AEK dropped to 0-1. It was a balanced game which saw nine lead changes in the opening three quarters, but Gran Canaria allowed just 7 points in the final period to cruise to a well-deserved win. Jackson Vroman led the winners with 13 points, but as many as 5 other Gran Canaria players scored at least 6 points for the hosts. Nestoras Kommatos and Brent Scott each had 14 points for AEK while Nikos Vetoulas added 11 for the guests. AEK led for the best part of the first half and still kept a 33-34 lead at the break. A three-pointer by Sotirios Nikolaidis gave AEK its last lead, 47-50, at the end of the third quarter. Marcus Norris, Roberto Guerra and Sitapha Savane played a major role in a game-breaking 16-4 run which allowed Gran Canaria to seal the outcome late in the final period.
Vroman opened the game with free throws and a wild dunk in the opening minute, while Kornel David scored off an inbound steal for a 6-2 Gran Canaria lead. Scott grabbed a loose ball and put it in while Guerra shined with a driving layup. Kommatos buried a big triple while Gran Canaria now had troubles in offense. Scott took Vroman one-on-one in the low post to give AEK its first lead, while Kommatos added a layup-plus foul for a 8-12 edge. Scott hit free throws while Sotiris Nikolaidis capped a 1-12 run which a running layup, forcing a Gran Canaria timeout at 9-16. AEK had entered the foul bonus, as Tre Simmons and Roberto Guerra combined for 5 of 6 free throws, but a fallaway jumper by Giannis Gagaloudis allowed AEK to keep a 14-18 edge after 10 minutes. Savane shined with a reverse layup early in the second quarter, but Prodomos Nikolaidis answered from downtown and added a free throw to keep AEK ahead, 17-22. Gran Canaria did not panic, however, as Savane and Vroman shined with dunks in a 8-0 run which gave the hosts a 25-22 edge. Scott scored in the paint and Vetoulas took over with consecutive three-pointers to put AEK back in charge, 27-30. Jim Moran and a red hot Vetoulas exchanged jumpers, and even when Kommatos scored again, Victor Baldo followed free throws with a layup to get the hosts within 33-34 at halftime.
Gran Canaria went scoreless in the opening 3 minutes of the second half, while Scott scored again to give AEK a three-point
lead, 33-36. Norris fired in a triple - Gran Canaria's first after 10 attempts - and David worked well in the low post to
provide another lead change, 38-36. AEK kept running its offense through Scott, as he fed Kommatos for an open triple, then
allowed Gagaloudis to score in penetration and finally scored inside to keep AEK ahead, 40-43. David buried a big triple for a 43-43 tie and even when Christos Tapoutos scored around the basket, Vroman followed free throws with a fast break dunk to force an AEK timeout at 47-45. Tapoutos shined with a power dunk while Sotirios Nikolaidis hit a running triple to give AEK a 47-50 edge after three quarters. Gran Canaria tried to slow down the tempo early in the final period, as Guerra hit a floating layup which Savane dunked it twice to make AEK call timeout at 53-50. Kommatos hit a critical three-pointer but AEK had already entered the foul bonus. Baldo and Mario Fernandez made free throws to give the hosts some fresh air at 57-53. AEK kept struggling in offense, as Tapoutos made a free throw for the guests' fourth point in more than 6 minutes. Moran provided a highlight with a power layup while Norris added free throws to seal the win, 61-54, with 2 minutes to go. Gran Canaria's defensive exhibition allowed AEK to score 4 points in more than 9 minutes, enough to cruise to a key home win.