Ulker of Istanbul got back to its accustomed position in second place of Group D with a thrilling come-from-behind 79-82 road win at Adecco Asvel on Wednesday. The victory lifted Ulker to 6-4 and tied it with Virtus Bologna behind group leader CSKA, who plays on Thursday. Down 7 points early in the last quarter, Ulker outscored the French champions 2-6 in the final 2 minutes to sock away the win. Ulker did without double-digit scoring from either Joseph Blair or Virginius Praskevicius, but the former's 12 rebounds led an advantage underneath that included 18 offensive rebounds. Ulker's perimeter provided plenty points, anyway, with Melvin Booker popping for 24, Serkan Erdogan 13, Harun Erdenay 11 and Miljan Goljovic 10. Together, they accounted for 7 three-pointers as Ulker shot 10-for-22 (45.4%) from behind the arc on the night. For Asvel, the loss was particularly bitter because its record dropped to 3-7, taking its hopes for the Top 16 one giant step backward. Andre Owens had 16 points for Asvel, Robert Gulyas 12, Stevin Smith and Harold Mrazek 10.
A game of swings started with Ulker getting the first one, a 0-9 opening run that saw Booker get his scoring hand warm. But if the visitors were feeling good quickly, it was not long before Asvel spoke up, too, with an 8-0 response that included 3 baskets by Gulyas. A twisted ankle suffered by Blair allowed Asvel to stay on Ulker's heels at 17-18 almost to the buzzer. But the quarter could not end before Haluk Yildirim connected with a huge three-pointer that left the visitors up 17-21 after 10 minutes.
In the second quarter, big man Vasco Evtimov and veteran Yann Bonato climbed off the bench to help Asvel to tie the game 23-23, while the home team defense was such that Ulker was unable to score a single basket for 5 minutes 20 seconds. Blair came back on the court, however, and scored all of his 6 first-half points in the last 2 minutes of the quarter. The end of this quarter looked familiar: This time it was Erdenay's turn to launch from way downtown. His shot from a meter behind the arc landed on the buzzer to give Ulker a 36-40 halftime advantage.
Probably encouraged by that big shot before the break, Erdenay proceeded to score 8 points in a row after it, giving Ulker its biggest lead of the game at 52-42. Owens kept his team alive with 8 points in the third quarter, and halfway through it, Asvel zoomed off on a scorching 17-5 run to erase everything Ulker had done before. In that stretch, Asvel made its first 3 three-pointers of the game after having missed on its initial 8 attempts. As such, the home team propelled itself to a 60-57 lead going into the final quarter.
Now, the Asvel shooters found the target more easily, and 2 triples in succession, by Mrazek and Simon Petrov, Asvel had reached its biggest lead 69-62. But soon Owens seemed a little bit alone for Asvel, scoring 6 points in 2 minutes, while Ulker came back on an 8-14 run to within a single point of the lead, 77-76, with 2 minutes remaining on the clock. It was money time and Asvel had no change. It scored only one basket by Gulyas as Ulker had 6 points, all of them by Goljovic and Booker, who combined for 16 of their team's 23 points in the last quarter.
Wednesday, January 8, 2003