| Fenerbahce Ulker won the last battle of the regular season, but lost the war for second place in Group C when it defeated visiting Lottomatica Roma 90-86 in overtime at home in Istanbul on Thursday. The victory left both teams tied with 6-4 records, but Roma won the tie-break based on a bigger margin of victory when they played in the Italian capital. Both will learn of their Top 16 opponents when the draw for that round is held on Monday. The visitors can thank Sani Becirovic, who after Fenerbahce went ahead in overtime by 87-78, the difference needed to steal second place, responded with back-to-back three-pointers that ended the notion. Oguz Savas posted career highs of 27 points and 9 rebounds to lead the winners. Damir Kaan Mrsic scored 15 of his 18 points in overtime, while Omer Onan added 17 and Devin Smith 11 for Fenerbahce, which was missing rebounding ace Mirsad Turkcan due to injury. Becirovic paced Roma with 24 points. Andre Hutson followed with a double-double of 18 and 10 rebounds. Rodrigo De la Fuente and Primoz Brezec added 10 points each.
Fenerbahce came out smoking as Emir Preldzic sank a layup while Onan matched him and buried a triple for a quick 7-0 advantage. Almost 3 minutes passed before De la Fuente hit free throws got Roma on the board, but then Hutson hooked after a steal by Ibrahim Jaaber and Brandon Jennings converted another Fenerbahce turnover to make it 7-6. Onan stopped the Fenerbahce slide with his second triple at 10-6, where the score stuck until Becirovic hit free throws. Onan responded on the break, to give himself 10 points already but Brezec scored alone for Roma at the other end. Free throws by Savas had Fenerbahce up 14-10, but Jaaber dunked and joined Becirovic for more free throws as Roma took its first lead, 14-15. Savas got back to the line, however, and was perfect again to give Fenerbahce a 16-15 advantage after one.
Becirovic opened the second quarter by taking the lead back for Roma from downtown, but it lasted mere seconds as Mrsic blasted his own shot from the arc. Savas took over then, first stretching the lead to 24-18 with his three-point basket-plus-free throw. He then passed backwards to Semih Erden for a dunk, buried a baseline jumper and started a fastbreak that Smith turned into a three-point play for a huge 29-20 lead. After a Roma timeout, Alessandro Tonolli lifted the guests with a corner triple. After Marques Green made a runner in the lane for Fenerbahce. De la Fuente and Hutson made 6 free throws around a dunk by Gaspar Vidmar, getting Roma back within 5 points, 34-29. The margin remained as Jaaber and Savas exchanged baskets for a 36-31 halftime scoreboard.
Smith got to the rim for Fenerbahce and Jaaber for Roma to open the second half. De la Fuente put Roma a step closer with a driving shot, then Becirovic made it 38-37 with a baby hook inside. Jaaber caused Fenerbahce's 14th turnover already and Hutson made the hosts pay with a third-chance jumper that put Roma in front again, 38-39. Yet another steal by Jaaber, his sixth, resulted in an intentional foul, whose free throws he converted before Brezec made it a four-point possession, a 0-12 run and at 38-43 advantage for the guests. Vidmar resurrected Fenerbahce with an inside basket-plus-free throw and when Smith put in a loose ball, it was tied again, 43-43. Brezec and Becirovic combined for 3 baskets that put Roma up again 45-49, but Savas answered now with a big triple. Hutson and Erdin exchanged free throws before the next big shot, a triple by Roberto Gabini, let Roma retain a 52-55 lead after 30 minutes.
Roma stayed a step ahead of Savas in the early fourth quarter, using baskets by Hutson and Jacopo Giachetti to offset a pair by the Fenerbahce big man. Hutson and Giachetti's next free throws made it 55-62, but Onan reappeared in the nick of time for Fenerbahce, completing a three-point play. Brezec and Savas traded points before the latter roared to the hoop for a layup at 63-64. Onan made 1 of 2 free throws to tie with less than 5 minutes remaining now. Two of those passed scorelessly, until Becirovic first hit go-ahead intentional free throws, and then kept the guests up with a couple more. Savas was still going strong though, and his basket and more free throws tied it 70-70 going into the final minute. Smith would hit the go-ahead shot for Fenerbahce, but De la Fuente matched him in close to make it 72-72 and bring overtime, which gave Fenerbahce an extended opportunity to try to steal second place.
Fenerbahce needed to win by 9 points to move into second place and Mrsic popped off the bench to get them. He opened the extra 5 minutes with a triple, and after Roma surged ahead 76-78, hit another from downtown. His third came quickly thereafter, and within seconds Mrsic also finished a fastbreak and the free throw that came with it for an 85-78 Fenerbahce advantage. A steal leading to a layup by Onan gave Fenerbahce the 9 points it needed at 87-78 with little more than a minute remaining, but within seconds Becirovic had blasted a pair of shots from the arc that would keep second place in the hands of Roma.
Thursday, January 15, 2009