Top 16 Round 7: Fenerbahce perfect at mid-point!
Halftime of the Top 16 has arrived after Round 7 with growing separation in one group and growing unpredictability in another. Fenerbahce Istanbul became just the second team in four seasons to go 7-0 in the Top 16 and leads four of Group E's teams by at least four victories. Meanwhile, CSKA Moscow and Laboral Kutxa Vitoria Gasteiz share Group F's lead with 5-2 records, but that only puts them two victories ahead of sixth place. A one-week break in this phase will bring all the teams back to play their group opponents again starting February 25.
Ekpe Udoh took his turn as the star as Fenerbahce Istanbul dominated Unicaja Malaga 80-59 on Thursday night at Ulker Sports Arena to reach the midway points of the top 16 with a perfect record. Udoh posted 12 points, 10 rebounds and 7 blocked shots to both set a club record and tie for the third-most rejections in competition history. Luigi Datome made 3 of 4 three-pointers to pace the winners with 13 points, Ricky Hickman scored 12 points and Jan Vesely, who received the January MVP from, Fenerbahce Sports Director Omer Onan before tip-off, and Bogdan Bogdanovic each added 11. Despite Udoh rejecting 5 shots in the first quarter and a half, Unicaja kept it relatively close, but Hickman heated up to give the hosts a 41-28 halftime lead and Unicaja never got closer than 12 the rest of the way. Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar remained cruised past Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul 82-58 on Friday. Lokomotiv took the lead for good midway through the first quarter and pulled away with a strong finish to the first half when Anthony Randolph and Malcolm Delaney fueled a quarter-ending 13-2 run to build a 44-28 halftime lead. An 11-0 run at the start of the third quarter broke the game wide open, and Lokomotiv led by as much as 57-31. A 3-16 run behind Scottie Wilbekin gave Darussafaka a chance and cut the deficit to 61-50. But, triples from Ryan Broekhoff and Evgeny Voronov sealed the outcome for the hosts. Randolph paced the victors with 18 points. Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade beat depleted Cedevita Zagreb 94-74 in front of a packed house at legendary Hala Pionir on Thursday night. With tennis superstar and world’s No. 1 Novak Djokovic sitting courtside cheer on the hosts, Zvezda led by Quincy Miller got off to a flying start, using a 12-0 run to build a 26-9 lead. Cedevita got into its rhythm, and led by Jacob Pullen kept melting the deficit. The hosts led 43-32 at halftime, but in the third quarter Cedevita closed within 6 points and had a couple of possessions to get even closer. However, in the fourth, Marko Guduric hit three triples, Vasilije Micic and Branko Lazic also hit one each, and Zvezda pulled away for good. Miller finished with 22 points and Micic had 14 points and 9 assists. In the final Group E game in Round 7, Panathinaikos Athens held off Anadolu Efes Istanbul 83-78 on Friday in the Greek capital for a third consecutive win. The Greens improved to a 4-3 record, good for a third-place tie with Zvezda. The teams traded blows before halftime as Miroslav Raduljica carried the Greens to a slim 36-35 lead. The hosts built a double-digit margin in the third quarter, but Efes wasn’t going away thanks to Thomas Heurtel and Dario Saric. The visitors got to within 66-64 in the fourth, but when Raduljica slowed down, Nick Calathes and James Gist stepped up to keep Panathinaikos in front and finish off the job. Raduljica scored 16 of his 23 points in the first half and also grabbed 8 rebounds. Calathes had 12 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds, while Gist collected 11 points and 8 boards. Saric paced Efes, which dropped to 3-4 record, by matching his career-high with 18 points and pulling down 6 rebounds.
In Game of the Week on Thursday, Laboral Kutxa Vitoria Gasteiz cruhed visiting Brose Baskets Bamberg 90-64 for its fourth consecutive win. Laboral's strong finish of the first quarter gave it control and 26-13 lead, and soon in the second quarter Laboral broke the game open behind Mike James. The hosts held a 19-point lead at halftime, and never allowed Bamberg to get closer than 12 rest of the way as Ioannis Bourousis led the winners with 18 points and 11 rebounds in just 18 minutes, and James added 16 points in victory. Joining Laboral atop the group is CSKA Moscow, which bested Olympiacos Piraeus 92-85 on Friday in the Russian capital. Milos Teodosic scored 10 of his game-high 21 points in the fourth quarter as the hosts held onto the lead after Olympiacos had taken a slim lead in the third quarter. CSKA looked to pull away when it built a double-digit lead in the second quarter and led 41-33 at halftime, but the visitors started the second half with 8 straight points to tie it and later took a 49-50 lead on a D.J. Strawberry triple. However Cory Higgins scored the next 5 points and though Olympiacos kept it close, CSKA held on the rest of the way. A monster game from Gustavo Ayon helped Real Madrid down Khimki Moscow Region 82-93 in the Russian capital. It was the champs first road win of the Top 16 and their first victory over Khimki after losing twice in the regular season. Ayon collected 24 points on 10-of-12 two-point shooting, 13 rebounds and 5 steals. Sergio Llull added 17 points and 11 assists for Madrid, which trailed 50-43 at halftime. But Llull and Jaycee Carroll led a 1-16 run that brought Madrid back, before Ayon took over early in the fourth quarter, boosting Madrid's lead to 72-84 with four minutes left, as the visitors cruised to a well-deserved road win. FC Barcelona Lassa defeated Zalgiris Kaunas 92-86 to snap its two-game losing streak. Juan Carlos Navarro led the winners with 14 points and Pau Ribas added 13, while Edgars Ulanovas starred with 17 points, 8 rebounds and 3 steals in defeat. Ian Vougioukas had 6 points in a 0-8 run that gave Zalgiris an early 4-12 lead, but Navarro stepped up for Barcelona and a three-pointer by Justin Doellman brought the hosts within 16-19 after 10 minutes. Sasha Vezenkov and Abrines fueled a 9-0 second-quarter run that put the hosts ahead and a three-pointer by Tomas Satoransky made it a double-digit game, 36-26, but Martynas Sajus and Kaspars Vegvagars brought the guests within 38-31 at halftime. A dunk by Satoransky sealed the outcome, 73-57, with seven minutes to go, though Zalgiris never quit and pushed Barcelona until the final minutes.
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