|Lietuvos Rytas pleased the home crowd with its biggest win of the Eurocup season by smashing Artland Dragons 105-64 in Group L on Tuesday. L. Rytas improved its Last 16 record to 2-1, good enough for a share of first place in the group alongside Spirou Basket and iurbentia Bilbao. Artland is at the bottom of the group with three defeats in as many games. Chuck Eidson paced the hosts with a great overall performance, collecting 18 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds and 3 steals. Milko Bjelica netted 15 points to go with 7 rebounds and Donatas Zavackas drilled all of his 5 three-point shots to match Bjelica in scoring with 15 points of his own. Mindaugas Lukaiskis notched 12 points, Marijonas Petravicius added 11 and 7 rebounds and Steponas Babrauskas chipped in with 10 points for the winners, who have won all of their Eurocup home games, but have yet to win on the road. For Artland, Dirk Madrich scored 14 points, while DrewNeitzel had 11.
Artland players didn't get intimidated by the always loud Vilnius fans and earned an early 4-6 lead. However, it would be the guests' last lead of the night, as Petravicius and Zavackas fueled a 13-0 run for a solid 17-6 advantage. The visitors fought back, led by Darren Fenn, who worked hard to help his team stay in the game at 22-13. Bjelica was ready to answer at the other end, and after 10 minutes the scoreboard showed 27-16. L. Rytas players attacked at the start of the second quarter, using their aggressiveness to increase the advantage to 37-21 on free throws by Eidson. But Artland kept playing, draining a pair of triples and dunking on the fast break to come as close as 39-29. L. Rytas head coach Rimas Kurtinaitis wanted to talk with his players, and it seemed to help, as they responded with an 11-2 run to widen the difference to 50-31. Bjelica put the gap up to a 20-point mark, before Nietzel scored to make it 54-36 at halftime.
Zavackas opened the second half with a triple for the hosts and then Arturas Jomantas scored on a fast-break to make it 59-36. The hosts dominated on defense, constantly forcing the visitors to take tough shots or turn the ball over. After Zavackas made another triple from the wing, Fenn finally came through with a three-point play for Artland. Then Flavio Stuckemann stole the ball to draw a foul on a fast-break and made the free throws, but Zavackas kept hitting for L. Rytas. Petravicius wanted to score, too, and now it was 69-43 in the hosts' favor. The visitors tried to be more aggressive on both ends and managed to cut the lead a little, as Adam Hess' free throws made it 71-47. But Dainys Evaldas scored on a put-back and Bjelica on a fast-break, before the teams exchanged acrobatic baskets, and it was 77-51 with 10 minutes to go. Darius Hall spilt free throws at the start of the final quarter, but Justas Sinica was ready with another L. Rytas triple. Then Lamont McIntosh showed that Artland can shoot the three, too, while Bjelica and Madrich exchanged drives for the 82-56 score. Eidson forced the guests to put him at the free throw line and seconds later converted a steal into a left-handed jam. With four-and-a-half minutes left, the visitors were already in team fouls, as the aggressive hosts increased the advantage to 90-60. The loud Vilnius crowd kept asking their heroes for more, and L. Rytas didn't disappoint, turning the last minutes into a basketball clinic. Steponas Babrauskas brought the crowd up to its feet by scoring the team's 100th point from the free throw line, and by the end of the game it was a 39-point victory, 105-64.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009