Despite trailing during the whole first half and some minutes of the second, AXA FC Barcelona managed to pull a road win at Chorale Roanne on Wednesday night by 79-89 and seal a ticket for the Top 16. A stellar performance by Jordi Trias and the help of Jaka Lakovic in the second half, allowed the guests to pull away in the final minutes despite a new scoring effort by Marc Salyers. The win allows Barca to improve its record in Group C to 8-2 to stay second in the standings, only after already qualified Panathinaikos. Barcelona locked at least the fifth spot in Group C, as Lottomatica Roma and Partizan Igokea, its potential opponents for that fifth place, still have to face each other and both teams are at least four wins away with as many games to go. On the other hand, Roanne drops to 3-7 and is seventh in the ladder. Lakovic led the winners with 19 points, all in the second half. Trias added 17 points and 13 rebounds, Mario Kasun had 14 points, Roger Grimau 13, Gianluca Basile 12 and Ersan Ilyasova 10. For Roanne, Salyers led all scorers with 30 points, Williams Soliman and Pape Badiane had 13 apiece and Adam Hess had 12.
Jordi Trias was soon fed by Pepe Sanchez for a slam that inaugurated the scoreboard, 0-2 but Brion Rush soon tied with a fadeaway jumper from the side. Marc Salyers blasted a three from downtown to put Roanne ahead, 9-4, closing a 7-0 run for the hosts, but Trias was active as he scored his fifth points for 9-7. Mario Kasun tied the game again but Salyers was on fire and reached his ninth point by the end of the third minute for 13-11. The game soon went down to a Salyers-Trias duel in offense, but Roanne doubled Barca in rebounds, 10-5. The guests struggled to maintain a slim advantage, as Malick Badiane stole the ball to slam for 18-17. A new assist by Sanchez for Kasun underneath allowed Barcelona to reach the end of the first quarter with a minimum advantage, 20-21.
Trias was still the offensive referent as he scored for 24-27, but Rush soon fired from the arc to tie again. Roanne's defense was as tight as ever and it kept forcing Barcelona turnovers. The hosts also had a nose for offensive rebounds and that led Adam Hess to the line to score twice for 29-27. Gianluca Basile found some space for his first three but the defense of the guests was too forgiving at times, allowing Roanne to score easy baskets. The hosts were soon matcing their maximum advantage, 35-30, as Barca had already 12 turnovers. A free throw by Salyers allowed his team to reach the halftime break with a 4-point edge, 41-37.
Badiane and Trias exchanged baskets to start the third period, but Barcelona still had problems with the turnovers. Basile hit a basket plus foul to make it 47-42 and Trias also scored for 47-46. It looked like when Barca stepped on the gas it could get rid of the hosts easily, as a 2-12 burst made it 49-51 forcing Roanne's timeout. Salyers broke the spell with a three but Roanne needed the contribution from more of its players if it wanted to win. Barcelona looked for options in the paint as its main pillars in offense were there. Ersan Ilyasova soon slammed for Barca's biggest lead so far, 54-59. And when Roger Grimau added his triple, the third quarter closed with a 56-62 Barca edge.
Salyers blasted a providential three in the first steps of the last period and then a floating layup to make it 63-66 with seven minutes to go. Barcelona kept looking to Trias in the paint and he helped his team, but Kasun missed three of four free throws in the worst moment for the guests. If that wasn't enough, he fouled Williams Soliman while the latter dunked to make it an 8-1 run for 66-67. Jaka Lakovic scored for Barca, and then himself and Grimau chained threes for 69-75. With three minutes to go, it was the last chance for Roanne to be back into the game. But a turnover allowed Lakovic to hit a new open three for 71-81 that was replied by Salyers for his 27th point. In the next play he made a basket plus foul play for 77-81 as the crowd's noise went through the roof. But Trias appeared in the right time to score for the guests, despite missing a bonus free throw. It also seemed that Lakovic couldn't miss as he scored a magic basket for his 17th point in the second half to make it 79-87 for Barca. With 45 seconds to go, Salyers went for a desperate three that didn't go in and Basile sealed Barca's win from the charity line.
Wednesday, January 2, 2008