Pau-Orthez took a giant step back into the Top 16 race in Group A by rallying to knock off Partizan 75-77 in Belgrade on Thursday night. Pau's win pushed its record to 5-7, the same as Partizan, which lost its fourth consecutive game. Both teams are now tied for fourth place in Group A with AEK and Union Olimpija. Pau won thanks to its great defensive work in the second half, as it overcame double-digit Partizan leads that lasted into the fourth quarter. Laurent Foirest was best scorer for the winning team with 17 points, while Cyril Julian added 14 and Artur Drozdov had 11. Partizan's best scorer was Nenad Krstic with 18 points, while Frederick House scored 15 and Dusan Kecman 14.
Pau opened a 2-6 advantage to start the game thanks to triples by Florent Pietrus and Nate Erdmann. A battle on the low post ensued, as Krstic tied the score by scoring 4 straight points but Mate Skelin replied with a sky hook that gave a lead back to Pau. Through errors on both ends of the court, Pau's defense remained well organized and the visitors stayed ahead 12-16 on a dunk by Julian. Partizan got a lift from the presence of Vlado Scepanovic, who was making his first appearance in more than a year after sitting out with an injury. Scepanovic scored from the free throw line and Partizan crept to within 15-16 after a triple by House . With 3 minutes remaining in the quarter, Dragan Lukovski and Foirest drilled back-to-back triples that sent Pau to a 17-22 advantage after 10 minutes.
Partizan got its game on track quickly then and got really rolling after Kecman scored a second three-point play in an 18-2 run that lasted until mid-way through the second quarter. Pau did not score from the field for more than 7 minutes and after Drozdov scored from the line, Gerald Brown nailed a three-pointer that gave the hosts a 36-25 edge. Julian managed to score twice for Pau, but the quarter belonged to Partizan. With 3 minutes to go, Scepanovic drilled a triple, reminding the nearly 7,000 Partizan fans that he used to be one of the best three-point shooters around. The score was 43-30. Partizan retained its 13-point lead for the rest of the quarter and went into the break ahead 49-36.
House scored on Partizan's first possession of the second half and the home team had its largest lead of the game at 51-36. That did not last long, though, as Pau answered with 5 points from Foirest and Pietrus. Then Julian scored again and Frederic Fauthoux nailed a triple, which forced Partizan to call timeout with 55-47 on the scoreboard. Coming out of the timeout, Kecman scored from downtown but Fauthoux drained a triple himself as Pau refused to let Partizan run away with the game. Pau dominated the final minutes of the third quarter, holding Partizan to a single field goal and going on a 2-8 run that left the score at 65-58 after 30 minutes.
In the begining of the final period, Ostojic and House quickly boosted Partizan's lead back to double digits, 68-58, as Pau went scoreless for nearly 3 minutes. But as Partizan's offense slowed to a halt, Drozdov drained consecutive triples and then nailed a three-point play that knotted the score at 72-72 with 2 minutes to go. Brown woke up Partizan fans with a triple and Partizan took back the lead in the last minute of the game, 75-72. But the Pau defense held Partizan without another point over the final minute. Meanwhile, Dragan Lukovski scored a lay-up and Julian dropped in 2 free throws to give Pau a one-point edge,75-76. Lukovski connected on 1 of 2 foul shots in the closing seconds, and then Partizan failed to score as Vule Avdalovic missed a shot as time expired.
Thursday, February 5, 2004