Ural Great downed Caprabo Lleida 84-79
The second round of the ULEB Cup began with a thriller in Perm, Russia, where Ural Great fought back from foul trouble to register an 84-79 victory over visiting Caprabo Lleida of Spain. The victory gives the Russian champs a five-point lead to defend in the second and last game of their series, to be played in Lleida next week. The hosts started strong but Lleida reacted to forge small leads at regular intervals. In the final quarter, however, Ural dominated enough to get its biggest lead, 10 points, in the last minute, before Jaume Comas cut down the deficit for Lleida. Ural withstood a game-long challenge by Lleida's veterans and persistent foul trouble to starters Chris Anstey and Stefan Nadjfeji. Eddie Shannon led Ural with 22 points, Valentin Kubrakov added 20, Martin Muursepp 16 and Raimonds Vaikulis 15. For the guests, A.J. Bramlett led the way with 17 points, Alberto Angulo added 15 and Roger Grimau hit 10. Michael Ruffin also had a good performance under the boards for Lleida with 14 rebounds. The key stat, however, was free throws: Ural made 33 of 35 at the line, Lleida just 15 of 24.
The series started with a three-pointer by Shannon, which got the first minutes of the game off to quite a fast start. Caprabo Lleida ran, too, but after a couple turnovers saw Ural Great jump ahead 7-2, the guests had to settle down. With good control of the defensive rebounds and the hot wrist of Alberto Angulo, Lleida was able to tie 7-7. Another jumper by Angulo gave the Spaniards their first lead, 7-9, and from that point, Lleida kept lengthening the lead thanks to the defensive problems of the Russian team. A couple steals later, Lleida had its biggest lead, 11-18, but then Valentin Kubrakov woke up his team to for a 7-0 run that would tie the game at 18-18 after 10 minutes.
The second quarter started with Chris Anstey taking his third foul, and his going to the bench supposed a blow for the hosts. But Ural started raining threes in response, and only the appearance of Manel Bosch to score 7 points himself allowed Lleida to lead 25-31. Ural Great made some changes to improve its defense, while Raimonds Vaikulis and Kubrakov hit from three again to pull the hosts within 33-35. Stefan Nadjfeji then tied the game at 35-35 on a steal, but soon Ural started having serious foul trouble. Nadjfeji himself and Nikolai Khryapa went to the bench with four fouls each, but Lleida shot poorly from the free throw line. Consequently, it was Ural holding a 40-37 with seconds to go. On the last play, the ball fell into Shannon's hands, and he hit the triple to beat the halftime buzzer for a 43-37 Ural advantage.
After resumption, Lleida reacted quickly to tie the game 47-47, thanks to good work down low by Bramlett. Meanwhile, Lleida's zone defense curtailed Ural's scoring, but only until Muursepp stroked a three-pointer and a jumper to put the locals up 54-49. Lleida now encountered foul trouble with several players with their fourth, but a 0-7 run culminated by Angulo nailing a shot from the sideline re-tied the game at 56-56. After 30 minutes, the score was 58-56. It was anybody's game.
The last period started with Ural dominating the offensive boards, but a three by Johnny Rogers put the guests ahead again, 60-61. At that point, Shannon woke up to lead his team in the offensive end, with fast penetrations and acrobatic layups. At the same time, the tightened Ural defense caused several Lleida turnovers that allowed the lead to reach 70-63. Now, Roger Grimau responded for Lleida with a three-point play at the same time that Muursepp fouled out. Shannon would make another big three-pointer, however, for a 73-68 Ural lead, and then he and Koubrakov riddled the tiring Lleida defense until they had the lead up to double digits at 84-74 with less than 2 minutes to go. With the return game in mind, Comas sparked a quick reaction by the guests, who were able to pull within 84-79 at the finish and to face the second game in Lleida with some fewer points to make up.
Tuesday, February 4, 2003