Strasbourg showed that it's in good form and provided the most shocking result in the ULEB Cup quarterfinals yet by downing mighty Lietuvos Rytas 83-70 at home in the first leg of the two-game series in front of 5,900 fans on Tuesday. Strasbourg now has a 14-point lead in the two-way series, which moves back to Vilnius, Lithuania, for the second leg at Siemens Arena. Despite its advantage, it will not be an easy game for Strasbourg, as Rytas has a 20-1 ULEB Cup home record and has won 17 straight games in Vilnius, the last nine at Siemens Arena, where a sellout crowd of 10,000 fans will try to get their team into the next round. Afik Nissim led the winners with a ULEB Cup career-high 21 points on 4-of-5 three-pointers, Chuck Eidson added 18, while Aerick Sanders had 10 for Strasbourg. Kareem Rush had 21 points for L. Rytas, while Andrius Slezas and Arturas Jomantas each added 11. Strasbourg opened the game with an 11-2 run, extending its margin to 28-13 after 10 minutes and then again to 52-29 at halftime. Rush and Jomantas led the L. Rytas comeback in the final period, but Strasbourg still managed to keep a considerable lead for the second leg next Tuesday.
Eidson got Strasbourg going with a fade-away jumper, which Jomantas erased with a driving layup. Eidson provided a highlight with a wild three-point play and then fed Aerick Sanders for a short jumper. Claude Marquis added a put-back layup in a 11-2 opening run that Gauthier Darrigand capped with free throws. L. Rytas could not find the way to the basket until Rush took over with a fast break layup. Eidson answered with a five-meter shot and then fed John McCord for a power basket, causing L. Rytas to call timeout at 15-4. Jomantas stepped up with another driving basket, however Marquis erased it with a short jumper. Rush fired in his first triple, but McCord kept scoring in the low post and Nissim buried one from downtown for a 22-9 Strasbourg lead. Sanders followed a layup with free throws, and more foul shots by Nissim gave Strasbourg a 15-point lead, 28-13, after 10 minutes.
Nissim stayed on fire early in the second quarter, hitting a big triple for a 31-13 Strasbourg margin. Rush tried to ignite the L. Rytas comeback with a fade-away jumper, but Dirk Madrich shined with a put-back dunk and Eidson buried a three-pointer to make the guests call timeout at 36-15. Eidson took over with a huge basket in the low post, but Slezas struck twice from downtown to get L. Rytas going. Michael Smith joined the three-point festival and McCord added free throws to restore a 23-point Strasbourg lead. Joao Paolo Batista hit foul shots and Rush added a driving layup, as L. Rytas now tried an effective 2-3 zone defense. Slezas buried his third triple, but Smith matched it at the other end. Madrich scored again in the low post and Nissim buried another three-pointer to give Strasbourg a 52-29 halftime margin, as its own fans could not believe their eyes after an outstanding exhibition at both ends.
Matt Nielsen tried to ignit the L. Rytas comeback with a turnaround jumper as the guests returned after the break ready to give everything on defense. Eidson rescued his team with an incredible layup-plus-foul. An unsportsmanlike foul on Claude Marquis allowed Nielsen and Batista to get Rytas within 56-36. Smith slashed to find an easy layup, which Mindaugas Lukauskis matched with a short jumper. Rush shined with a driving layup as L. Rytas tried Lukauskis on Eidson now. Strasbourg switched to zone defense, but now had trouble against L. Rytas's physical defense. Nissim stepped up with another three-pointer, but Eurelijus Zukauskas and Lukauskis helped Rytas to keep its momentum going. Sacha Giffa shined with a driving layup and Madrich added free throws to make it 65-44. Rush kept pacing Rytas with a huge triple and a fall-away jumper, but Nissim made foul shots to give Strasbourg a 67-49 margin after three quarters.
Lukauskis dunked it off a steal at the start of the final period, as Strasbourg hustled for every possession on defense. Zukauskas stepped up with a put-back basket to get L. Rytas within 67-53. The hosts continued to struggle to score, until Gauthier Darrigand hit a floating jumper. Jomantas scored near the basket and added free throws to get L. Rytas even closer, 69-57, with 4 minutes to go. Nissim took over with a five-meter jumper but Rush hit another triple for a 71-61 L. Rytas deficit. Darrigand answered from downtown and Eidson banked in a jumper and the free throw that came with in. Janis Blums stepped up with a triple, but a driving layup by Nissim gave Strasbourg a 79-65 lead. Nielsen immediately scored in the other end, but Sanders took over with another three-point play in the final minute. Blums got his own layup-plus-foul, but a free throw by Nissim allowed Strasbourg to take a 13-point lead in the two-game series.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007