The new CSKA Moscow and its veteran coach, Dusan Ivkovic, put their imprint on Group C very quickly Wednesday by running off with a 63-66 victory on the road at Ulker Istanbul. A defensive-minded game also produced a newcomer to watch in the Euroleague, as rookie forward Darius Songalia led the winners with 17 points, including 9 that set the tone in the first half for CSKA. The other key contributor for CSKA was center Alexandre Bashimov, who only scored 8 points but dominated all rebounders with 12 as CSKA won the boards war 24-34. Point guard J.R. Holden was the only other scorer in double figures for CSKA, with 13 points. CSKA won despite making just 4 of 16 three-pointers and 10 of 21 free throws, in part because Ulker had a cold night behind the arc, making just 6 of 25 long shots. Melvin Booker missed a few of those but still led Ulker with 18 points. Virginius Praskevicius added 12, mostly in the first half, while Joe Blair and Serkan Erdogan hit for 10 each. As such, CSKA joined the early leaders in Group C at 1-0 while Ulker has to look up at them from 0-1.
Ulker and CSKA were battling from the opening bell, with neither team able to get a comfortable lead. What was working best for the visitors was ball distribution, with Holden getting his teammates involved almost in equal measure while scoring his own points. As such, Darius Songalia got two early baskets while Gatling was getting inside for his own points. Meanwhile, Booker was doing something similar for Ulker, and the one most involved at the beginning was Praskevicius, who hit every shot he took in two-point range. Oddly enough Booker's help on the boards was making a difference, too. Indeed, he would end the game with 8 rebounds, as many as any Ulker player. As it was, his points and those of Praskevicius, plus two Haluk Yildirim free throws, put the home team in front 20-17 at the end of one quarter.
That first quarter ended up as the most offensive of them all. Early in the second, however, Victory Khryapa drilled a three-pointer to forge a 22-22 tie. Soon, however, it was Booker who was answering from behind the arc to put Ulker ahead 27-24. Neither team allowed the other an easy shot or a prolonged lead. It was all they could do to get to the line and make some free throws as the score refused to climb and they pulled into halftime with Ulker holding a one-basket lead, 35-33.
In the second half, the defenses started to talk even louder. Ulker started to play harder one-on-one defense, with the result that the home team surged ahead by 8 points, 47-39, after 27 minutes. That's when CSKA woke up and answered with the same defensive style. With the help of the zone defense CSKA put on, they reduced the difference to 4 points, 49-45, just a minute before the end of the quarter. It took a three-pointer just a second before the buzzer to allow Ulker to retain a 50-46 at the end of the third quarter.
The last quarter saw CSKA bring the ball inside every attempt on offense while Ulker settled for outside shots. Despite the mistakes and the turnovers, Ulker continued to lead the game halfway through to the end, 57-54. But the easy turnovers proved too costly for Ulker as CSKA equalled the score 59-59 with just over 2 minutes left. Blair tipped the ball on the backboard to make the score 63-60 with barely 1 minute remaining. With 38 seconds left, however, a steal by Holden put CSKA back in front 63-64. Booker missed a shot now and a foul by Goljovic put Songalia on the line to make the final two points. Two subsequent foul shots missed by Serkan Erdogan and a last-ditch three-point attemp by Harun Erdenay woulnd't fall and CSKA escaped with a big victory.
Wednesday, October 9, 2002