| For the first time in its recent Euroleague history, Lottomatica Roma holds a regular season group's first place exclusively after it downed visiting Fenerbahce Ulker 76-67 on Thursday in a physical battle dominated by big men. The victory left Roma with a 4-1 record in Group C midway through the regular season, a victory ahead of both Fenerbahce and Tau Ceramica. The difference was just 70-67 headed into the final 2 minutes, but Andre Hutson and Sani Becirovic, along with Roma's defense, settled the matter convincingly then. Hutson finished with a career-high 26 points that included 11-for-11 foul shooting as he sustained medium-sized leads for Roma much of the game. Rodrigo De la Fuente contributed a double-double of 11 points and 11 rebounds, while Becirovic had 11 points and 7 assists for the winners. Fenerbahce got a huge performance from Mirsad Turkcan, whose 46th career double-double was 21 points and 14 rebounds, including 4 three-pointers. Oguz Savas was the only other double-digit scorer for Fenerbahce, with 10 points.
Becirovic scored a layup off the opening tipoff. Fenerbahce took its first lead on a corner triple by Rasim Basak, who came back a minite later and blasted another from downtown to make it 2-6. Turkcan hooked in an offensive rebound to extend Fenerbahce's advantage, but Hutson finally downed free throws and a short jumper to get Roma moving again. After Angelo Gigli hit a free throw, Becirovic completed a fastbreak to put Roma ahead and De la Fuente put back an offensive rebound at 12-8. Devin Smith scored on the break for Fenerbahce, but De la Fuente answerd in the post at 14-10. Hutson kept drawing fouls to make it 16-10 before Savas and Smith drew Fenerbahce within 17-14. Becirovic ended the quarter, too, with free throws that preserved a 19-14 edge for the hosts.
To open the second quarter, veteran Fenerbahce swingman Omer Onan scored in his first minute on-court since a pre-season injury, and Damir Mrsic seconded him with a huge three-pointer to tie it all up, 19-19. Roberto Gabini kept the lead in Roma's hands with a long jumper and soon went from even longer for a triple to make it 24-19. Brandon Jennings marked his arrival with a steal and free throw, then De la Fuente went backdoor for a 27-19 lead. Great ball movement led to Savas scoring for Fenerbahce, but Primoz Brezec answered with free throws at 29-21. Turkcan ended an exchange of misses with a big triple, then Emir Preldzic copied him from the corner to force a Roma timeout at 29-27. De la Fuente found a short jumper to restart Roma, and scoring stalled for both teams until Gabini launched from way downtown to make it 34-27. Gabini then assisted Hutson for a three-point play that meant the game's first double-digit lead, 37-27. Another of Fenerbahce's long-injured players, Semih Erden, scored his first point of the season, a free throw, to which Smith added a pair, cutting the difference to 37-30 at halftime.
Roma's defense ruled after the break as Huston and Ibrahim Jabber quickly re-established the double-digit lead with baskets at 41-30. Almost 3 minutes passed before Gasper Vidmar put through an offensive rebound for Fenerbahce. Hutson continued to dominate with more free throws and another inside basket at 45-33. Smith dunked for Fenerbahce, and after an empty couple minutes, Turkcan rang from downtown again to lower the difference to single digits, 46-38. Gabini fed Hutson for a dunk, but Turkcan sank free throws and fed Savas for a slam to cut it further, to 48-42. Becirovic stopped the bleeding for Roma, and when Hutson popped a jumper, the lead was back to double-digits. Turkcan and Savas kept battling, however, and Roma needed a late Jennings dunk to stay up 54-45 after 30 minutes.
A big three-point play by Brezec to start the final quarter had Roma looking comfortable at 57-45. He was back soon for another basket and the game's biggest lead yet, 61-47, but Mrsic kept Fenerbahce's head in the game with another big triple. After Turkcan and Hutson exchanged free throws, Mrsic was back launching from deep, and just like that, the scoreboard read 63-57. Even when Jennings added free throws and Allan Ray's first basket made it 67-57, the visitors didn't stop rallying. Turkcan now blasted a three-pointer from the corner, and soon Smith assisted Savas nicely to make it 67-62. Roma kept missing and Turkcan kept battling, getting 2 more free throws to fall for a 67-64 scoreboard. Out of nowhere, Gigli appeared on the arc for Roma, took a pass from Becirovic and buried his shot. But then, Turkcan - who else? - answered with his own triple for a 70-67 score with 2 minutes left. Next, Becirovic found Hutson for a dunk at 72-67, where the score stayed going into the final minute. That's when Becirovic settled it with a stop-and-go layup along the baseline to end the threat and leave Roma in first place alone in Group C.
Thursday, November 27, 2008