Partizan Igokea pounded Brose Baskets Bamberg 85-37 to practically seal a spot in the Top 16 on Thursday at Pionir Arena in Belgrade, Serbia. Partizan’s spectacular defense flirted with records for both the fewest points allowed and biggest margin in Euroleague Basketball history, but in the end the Serbian champs would have to settle for a monumental win. Partizan improved to 5-8 this season and clinched at least sixth place in Group C. Head coach Dusko Vujosevic’s charges can wrap that spot up for sure with a win next week at Real Madrid. The only two teams that can still fight Partizan for the best sixth-place spot that leads to the last spot in the Top 16 are Group A’s Union Olimpija and Group B’s Cibona Zagreb. However even of Partizan loses next week, Olimpija would need to win and have its margin of victory and Partizan’s margin of defeat be at least 98 points. For Cibona to have a chance, it would need to win, have Partizan loss and have the gross point difference between the games reach 93 points. Partizan took care of business in the second period, using a 20-0 run at one point, while holding Bamberg to 8 points in the entire period, to take a 42-18 halftime lead. That tied the third fewest points allowed in the first half of a Euroleague Basketball game. Bamberg never threatened in the second half as Partizan came within 2 points of the all-time record for fewest points in a game, 35 set by Krka Novo Mesto against CSKA Moscow in November 2003. The winning margin of 48 points was the sixth best in competition history. That record belongs to Montepaschi Siena, which slammed Buducnost 112-49 in February 2003. Novica Velickovic led Partizan with 17 points and 13 rebounds, Milenko Tepic scored 16, Nikola Pekovic 13, Cedomir Vitkovac 12 and Milt Palacio 10. Ademola Okulaja led Bamberg with 11 points and Steffen Hamann added 9.
Pekovic got Partizan going with a power layup and Velickovic added a put-back basket for a 4-0 Partizan lead in just 20 seconds. Predrag Suput scored around the basket, but Bamberg struggled to score from the very start. Pekovic had a big block on Okulaja, as Partizan kept powering the offensive boards for second-chance opportunities. Hamman tied the game with a driving layup as Partizan kept trying to run its offense through a double-teamed Pekovic. Meanwhile, Okulaja capped a 0-7 Bamberg run with a bomb from downtown. Pekovic dunked it and Tepic added a three-point play to put Partizan back ahead, 9-7. Tim Ohlbrecht made a free throw and Okulaja sank another jumper, as Bamberg used twin point guards with Hamman and Mithat Demirel on court. The hosts did not find the way to the basket until Petar Bozic struck from downtown. Velickovic added a fast break dunk that caused Bamberg call timeout at 14-10. Both teams went scoreless for almost two minutes, trading missed shots and turnovers, as a big block by Ohlbrecht on Slavko Vranes kept Bamberg within 14-10 after 10 minutes.
Velickovic continued to pace Partizan with another fast break dunk, as Bamberg kept finding it hard to get open shots. The guests went scoreless for almost six minutes. Meanwhile Pekovic stepped up with a put-back basket and Tepic banked in a mid-range jumper. However Darren Fenn answered from downtown to give Bamberg some hope at 20-13. It didn't last long, as Vitkovac fired in a triple that an unstoppable Velickovic followed with a put-back basket. By the time Pekovic took over with another layup-plus-foul, Partizan had a 15-point. Bamberg called a much-needed timeout, but Partizan was rolling at both ends now. Palacio followed a driving layup with free throws and Vranes had a huge block on Okulaja's dunk attempt. Tepic took over with a fast break layup and Vitkovac sank a three-pointer that broke the game open, 37-13. Bamberg had been limited to just 3 points in more than 12 minutes. Meanwhile, Vitkovac capped a mammoth 20-0 run with a driving layup. Robert Garrett finally scored for Bamberg before Hamman sank a midcourt bomb to bring Bamberg within 42-18 at halftime.
Baskets by Okulaja and Hamann gave Banberg some small hope as the second half got underway, but Partizan was having none of it. The hosts answered with another run, this time of 10 straight points featuring a pair of Tepic three-pointers, to go ahead 52-22. Okulaja continued to fight for Bamberg, but it was to no avail. Five straight points from Velickovic and 2 Vitkovac free throws made it 63-28 after three periods.
Bamberg had completely given up by the fourth quarter, which Uros Tripkovic began with a three-pointer. Partizan continued to pile it on, as Pekovic free throws made it a 40-point game. A Hamann basket and Demirel free throws tried to at least get Bamberg within half of Partizan’s total, but Dusan Kecman and Velickovic keyed an 11-0 charge as the score reached 81-34. With the outcome long known, Partizan didn’t let up, knowing that the point difference would help it in its Top 16 quest. An added bonus was the race for a spot in the record book for both the biggest margin and fewest points allowed. In the end, they would simply have to settle for a huge win and a near certain spot in the next stage.
Thursday, January 24, 2008