A message was sent out of Belgrade to the rest of Group A on Thursday night as Partizan Mobtel put a 77-68 hurting on elite visitor Ulker before 7,000 approving fans in Pionir Arena. As such, Partizan bounced back from a two-point opening-game road loss to even its record at 1-1, the same as Ulker after two games. Once again, Djuro Ostojic led Partizan, scoring 21 points and grabbing 8 rebounds, 7 of them on the offensive glass. Gerald Brown scored 17, while Fred House and Dusan Kecman each chipped in 13 points for the winners. Joseph Blair led Ulker with 19 points and 8 rebounds. Melvin Booker scored 13 points and Haluk Yildirim 12 in the losing effort. The victory by Partizan showed the value of defense and rebounding over long-distance shooting. Partizan made only 1 three-pionter all night, but it dominated Ulker on the boards, 38-23.
Partizan started the game with only three big men, due to the injuries of Nenad Krstic and Mladjan Silobad. Even young guard Uros Tripkovic is injured, but he was sitting on the bench, so head coach Dusko Vujosevic had only nine players in rotation. From the first moment it was visible that the great battle between Ostojic and Blair woul mark the game. Those two were scoring until the middle of the first period, when Partizan led 9-6, but within a minute, the visitors were ahead 11-13 after a first triple by Erdogan Serkan. He triggered a 0-10 Ulker run and team fropm Istanbul led 11-19 after 9 minutes. The quarter ended 14-20 and it seemed that the more-experienced Ulker might have an easy visit with Partizan commiting several turnovers.
The second period started with two Blair baskets but Ostojic answered with two more. The Partizan center was unstopabble under Ulker's board, and his offensive rebounds gave the home team second chances that turned the scoreboard from 23-28 to 33-30 by the 15th minute. Almost the same margin remained at the half, 37-35, by which time Ostojic had 4 offensive rebounds. Partizan had missed all 4 of its three-point attempts by then, but had held Booker scoreless, though Ulker's bench had outscored that of the hosts 3-11.
Booker woke up in the first minute of the second half, scoring a triple. Maybe Ulker thought that would mark the beginning of a big run: It did, but not for Ulker. Partizan scored the next 14 points of the game and its defense held Ulker scoreless for 6 minutes to take control of the scoreboard at 51-38. Ostojic was the king of the paint again, teenager Kosta Perovic showed his great talent, while Kecman, House and Brown wisely led the play. Blair missed several free throws in the last minute of that period and the score was 57-45 after 30 minutes.
As it began the third period, Ulker also started the fourth, with Haluk Yildirim landing a triple. A minute later he added a layup to pull Ulker within 57-50, but 2 minutes later, Yildirim was fouled out. Two baskets by Booker kept Ulker close at 64-58 but after 37 minutes of play, House connected on Partizan's first and only three-pointer. Maybe it was the shot of the game because Ulker did not managed to get closer than 8 points again until 70-77, in the closing seconds.
Thursday, November 13, 2003