Charleroi of Belgium made its bid for a higher place in Group D with a handy 80-66 home win over visiting Zadar of Croatia, though both teams came into the game already qualified for the next round. Charleroi improved its final regular season record to 6-4, tying it for the top spot with Metis Varese and Caprabo Lleida, but dropped to third with tiebreaks applied. Zadar finished 5-5 and in fourth place. Ron Ellis led the winners with 20 points and got help from Marcus Faison with 16. Andre Riddick pulled 12 rebounds for Charleroi. Branimir Longin had a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds for Zadar, while Michael Meeks chipped in points.
Charleroi started this very important game, with a winner who could possible take first place, in fine fashion, leading 10-4. But that stood to reason, because Zadar was missing two of its main players, Marko Popovic and Marko Samanic, both injured. Charleroi didn't have mercy and kept up its pace, alternating inside and outside plays and taking advantage of the too many fouls by Zadar (6 in 4 minutes). It already was 15-6 when Zadar took its first timeout. Actually, Zadar didn't manage to penetrate and Roel Moors directed Charleroi's fastbreaks perfectly. But as often happens when things come too easy, Charleroi lost concentration and allowed Zadar to stay in the game at the end of 10 minutes, 24-15.
Vladimir Kuzmanovic took time to get comfortable with Charleroi, but proved he is now with a second three-pointer in as many minutes, while Michael Meeks of Zadar was up to four misses. Zadar still had difficulties inside, too, going against Charleroi big man Dimitri Jorssen. Anyway, no matter how much better Zadar organized its game, it didn't seem to reflect on the scoreboard, which read 32-19 after 15 minutes. Neither team could score for the next few minutes, so even though Meeks finally connected for Zadar, it wasn't enough to make up much distance and Charleroi took a 36-24 halftime lead to the lockers.
Served by Moors, Marcus Faison started up the second half with a slam, but Meeks answered with a triple: Was it a sign that Charleroi should pay attention then? That, at least, is what Faison and Ron Ellis understood as they pushed the lead ahead to 45-29. Both teams now played zone defense and Zadar found its points solution in the duo of Branimir Longin, who scored 10 points in the quarter, and Mladen Erjavec, author of 4 points and 3 assists. The guests dropped the deficit below 10 again, at 45-36, before Roger Huggins relaunched Charleroi in time to preserve an 11-point advantage, 59-48, after 30 minutes.
Going on with its zone defense, Zadar was now menacing more and more, pulling within 62-56 and forcing a Charleroi timeout. Faison held up the scoring for his team until Ellis came back in force and together they lifted Charleroi out of trouble at 70-59. There were 2 minutes left when the score showed 72-62. Longin and Erjavec received the help of Meeks but Riddick was defending well and Charleroi had recovered confidence enough to take the victory home, 80-66.
Friday, January 17, 2003