Rytas outlasts Monaco
Rytas Vilnius held on for an 80-75 victory over AS Monaco in front of a raucous crowd at Siemens Arena in the Lithuanian capital on Wednesday night. The result put Rytas in a share of the top spot in Group G with a 2-1 record and dropped Rytas to 1-2, though the teams will meet in Round 4 of the Top 16 next week in Monaco. The scored was tied 73-73 with 3 minutes remaining, but the home team's defense held Monaco to a single score the rest of the way, while Eimantas Bendzius and Arnas Butkevecius hit threes to wrap up the victory. Tu Holloway paced the winners with 13 points, Pako Cruz scored 12 and Butkevecius and Deividas Sirvydis added 11 apiece. J.J. O'Brien led Monaco with a personal-best 23 points and Norris Cole netted 21 in defeat.
Cameron Bairstow scored twice to help the hosts to a 7-4 start. Paul Lacombe's second basket gave Monaco a 7-8 lead midway through the opening quarter. Back-to-back threes by Mindaugas Girdziunas and Dovis Bickauskis put Rytas back on top before O'Brien narrowed the gap to 15-12 after 10 minutes. Dee Bost tied it for Monaco and O'Brien put the visitors ahead, 17-19. The lead swung back and forth again with Sirvydis connecting from downtown and Bendzius and Evaldas Kairys adding -put-backs for the hosts before O'Brien and Lacombe pushed Monaco to 24-25. The lead changed hands with each of the game's next four baskets. Sirvydis nailed a triple in the final seconds of the half to give Rytas a 33-31 edge at the break.
Rytas got a three from Cruz and two more from Butkevecius to pump its lead up to 6, but Cole had heated up to bring the visitors to 44-43. Cruz kept Rytas on top and Sirvydis scored 5 straight points to extend the margin to 58-49. Monaco called a timeout after which Yakuba Ouattara and Cole hit back-to-back triples to bring the visitors within 58-55 at the end of the quarter. O'Brien scored to open the fourth quarter before Ouattara drilled another triple – and the free throw that came with it – to complete a 0-12 charge. Kairys's tip-in ended the Rytas drought and Holloway's third three of the night evened the score at 63-63. Cruz nailed a three and Marek Blazevic turned his own miss into a basket-plus-foul for a 71-65 lead. Cole halved the Monaco deficit with a triple and added a layup. Dee Bost's three-pointer tied the game at 73-73 with 3 minutes remaining. Bendzius countered from behind the arc to restore a Rytas lead and Blazevic added a free throw with 1:18 on the clock to make it a two-possession advantage. Butkevecius put the game on ice with a deep three with 34 seconds left.
Arnas Butkevecius continued his excellent Top 16 with 11 points, 4 rebounds and 6 assists. He only missed 1 shot and committed just a single turnover to record a performance index rating of 22 for the second week in a row. Butkevecius is now averaging 12.7 points on 90.9% two-point shooting (10 of 11) and 100% three-point shooting (4 for 4) plus 4.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists in the Top 16.
Rytas had its second-best three-point shooting night of the season both in terms of shots made (14) and percentage (45.2%). Seven different players made threes for the hosts, including a trio of men with 3 apiece: Arnas Butkevecius (3 for 3), Deividas Sirvydis (3 for 5) and Tu Holloway (3 for 5). Monaco made half as many triples and did so at 33.3%, which was a factor in the outcome.
Another rising star?
With starting center and reigning EuroCup Rising Star Award winner Martynas Echodas sidelined, Rytas turned to another rising star. Teenager Marek Blazevic made his first EuroCup start and held his own with 6 points, 4 rebounds and 1 assist in 15 minutes on the floor. He was active and the glass and drew 5 fouls as well for a performance index rating of 11.
It won't be long…. Next Wednesday, January 29, these teams will meet again for a pivotal Round 4 game at Stade Louis II in Monaco.
Wednesday, January 22, 2020