DKV Joventut made a major move towards the Top 16 by defeating direct Group B rival Partizan on the road Belgrade by 74-83 on Wednesday. The outcome pushed Joventut to a 6-4 record and at least third place in the group standings while it dropped Partizan to 4-6 and at best a share of fourth place. Rudy Fernandez fired in 26 points for the winners, including 5 of 9 triples. Elmer Bennett added 14 ponts and Paco Vazquez 11 for Joventut. For Partizan, Vonteego Cummings led the way with 21 points on 4-of-8 three-point shooting and 6 steals. Predrag Drobnjak was the only other host player in double digits with 10 points. Partizan, backed by an impressive crowd, dominated the first half and still led by 5 points going into the final quarter. A back-and-forth struggle that included 6 consecutive three-point shots made by the two teams saw Joventut pull ahead late on heroics by Fernandez and then guard the lead with great free throw shooting at the finish.
A seven-meter shot by Cummings gave Partizan an early 3-0 lead. Dusan Kecman added a jumper for the hosts, but Fernandez hit his first triple for the visitors. Bennett and Fernandez then stitched together 5 straight points before Robert Archibald scored his first points to give Joventut its first lead, 9-10. Archibald also forced Partizan center Kosta Perovic into a couple of fast personal fouls and he was replaced by Nikola Pekovic. Joventut played with high pressure on Partizan's guards in the middle of the court, but Drobnjak found the answer and scored 4 points to put the hosts ahead again. After the fans in Belgrade welcomed teen star Ricky Rubio, Partizan veteran Petar Bozic welcomed him in his own way, with a bomb from downtown that put the hosts up 16-12. Joventut struck back with 0-5 run and then the teams traded the lead until finally Pekovic scored twice from the line and added a layup to leave Partizan in front, 22-21, after 10 minutes.
Joventut started the second quarter with more aggresiveness on defense and the Partizan guards had lot of problems protecting the ball. Joventut managed to hold the hosts scoreless for more than 3 minutes but the result was a slim 22-23 lead. Finally, Kecman scored to put Partizan up again, then added another basket for the hosts. Partizan forced play into the paint, where Drobnjak and Perovic dominated. Drobnjak also showed his shooting form behind the arc to push the hosts ahead by 29-23. Luka Bogdanovic ended a 9-0 Partizan run with a slam, but Lubos Barton and Paco Vazquez responded with 5 straight points for Joventut. Andrew Betts joined them with layup as Joventut's run reached 0-7. Milenko Tepic then stepped up for Partizan with a bomb to make it 34-31, to which Bogdanovic added his first triple as replacement for guard Uros Tripkovic, who injuried his back shortly before tipoff. A few moments later, Bogdanovic netted his second triple and Partizan strolled into the half ahead by 41-34.
The second half started with a jumper from Bennett and another by Vazquez as Joventut quickly got back within 41-40. Partizan missed chances to score until Cummings denied the visitors the lead, but soon Joventut tied it up, 43-43. Betts and Charles Gaines missed twice and Partizan was leading again. Fernandez tied again with a three-point play but on the other side Bozic fired another bomb, which pumped up a soldout Pionir Arena. Marcelo Huertas and Bozic exchanged jumpers. Partizan still had problems in transition due to Joventut's aggressive defence, but managed to retain a 55-51 lead after three quarters.
Rubio opened final quarter with fastbreak points for the visitors, and then Betts forged a 51-51 tie from the foul line. Cummings and Bennett traded triples but Novica Velickovic added one more for Partizan. Bennett and Cummings continued the three-point shootout, which ended with a bomb from Fernandez, the sixth in a row between the teams. The score was tied at 64-64. After more than 20 minutes without it, Joventut took the lead again on a basketb by Betts. It lasted only until Cummings fired again from the arc to make it 67-66. Fernandez netted 2 of 3 free throws to take back the advantage for Joventut, but Cummings gave his team another lead with 3 minutes left. A minute later the game was still open when Fernandez and Barton combined on 4 perfect free throws. The crucial basket came with 90 seconds, when Fernandez gave the visitors a 69-74 lead. When Pekovic lost the ball and Vazquez was cool-handed at the free throw line, Joventut was on its way to victory. Drobnjak scored from behind the arc, but it was too late as Bennett and Barton made sure at the foul line of Joventut's major road.
Wednesday, January 3, 2007