After trailing for three quarters in its bid to avoid last place in Group E, defending champion Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv took off in the fourth one on Thursday to defeat visiting Ulker 84-74. The victory evened Maccabi's record at 1-1 in Group E, good for a share of second place, while Ulker dropped to fourth at 0-2 and needs to start winning quickly to keep hopes alive for the Quarterfinal Playoffs. Maccabi used a major contribution from reserve forward Jamie Arnold, who finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds in 20 minutes, to stay in the game. Will Solomon, who also came off the bench, followed with 19 points and led the fourth-quarter rally while Anthony Parker picked up 13 points and 7 assists. For Ulker, Ibrahim Kutluay scored 23 points and pushed his team to first-half leads of as many as 18 points. Marcus Haislip posted a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds. Jeff Trepagnier added 11 points and Oguz Savas 10 for the visitors.
Ulker won the tip and looked inside to teenage big man Oguz Savas, who sank a hook over Nikola Vujcic. Vrbca Stefanov set Savas up inside on the next play to make it 0-4. Maccabi finally scored more than a minute into the game on a pair of Vujcic free throws. The hosts then took the lead when Yaniv Green, making his first start of the season, scored in traffic and got a bonus free throw while drawing Marcus Haislip's second foul. Jeff Trepagnier put Ulker up 7-9 with a three-pointer, however, before Green tied it 9-9 off a dish from Anthony Parker. Maccabi made a double substitution with Maceo Baston and Will Solomon coming in for Green and Tal Burstein, but Ulker would reap the immediate dividends as Haislip threw down a wicked dunk. Maccabi didn't wait long to retaliate as Derrick Sharp set Parker up for a perfectly orchestrated alley-oop slam that thrilled the crowd. Savas kept Ulker ahead with a bucket on the offensive glass and then the visitors surged ahead on the strength of Kutluay's hot hand. His first triple stretched the lead to 14-18, his second kept Maccabi from catching up and, after the the hosts missed 4 free throws on consecutive possesions, Kutluay added a third shot from downtown to put Ulker in front 22-28 after 10 minutes.
Haislip took advantge of a pair of Maccabi turnovers to score 5 quick points and give Ulker a double-digit lead, 22-33, at the start of the second quarter. Ulker's defense was causing the hosts big problems as Maccabi continued committing turnovers, 7 in its first 9 second-quarter possessions. Meanwhile, Stefanov, Mirsad Turkcan and Trepagnier took turns scoring - mostly uncontested on the break - to give Ulker a whopping 24-42 advantage. Jamie Arnold's long jumper ended the Maccabi drought, but a Turkcan triple had the visitors up 17 midway through the quarter. But just as everything looked lost, the hosts roared back. Arnold scored 6 points during an 11-0 run that was highlighted by Baston's swat of an Turkcan layup attempt, leading to a fastbreak and free throws at the other end. After Trepagnier made his own free throws for Ulker, Solomon nailed a three-pointer and later Sharp finished what would be an 18-2 run with an offensive rebound and a three-point play to trim the gap to 46-47. The protagonist of the first quarter, Kutluay, returned for the final jumper of the half to give Ulker a 46-49 lead at the break.
Ulker came out of the locker room cold, missing its first 5 shots, but Maccabi failed to take advantage and when Kutluay finally scored a triple, Ulker was back up 48-52. The visitors turned the ball over on 3 consecutive trips downcourt, but Maccabi answered with as many missed shots. After Baston missed the last of those, Solomon complained to the referees and was eventually called for a technical. Kutluay made the free throws, but Ulker lost the ball again and an acrobatic Parker drive kept Maccabi within 51-54 midway through the quarter. Baston kept Sharon Shason's missed three-pointer alive long enough to work it around for a Solomon triple, but Haislip maintained Ulker's momentum with a powerful two-handed slam. Ulker continued to go to Haislip inside, but Maccabi looked to take away that option by sending him to the line. Haislip missed 3 of 4 foul shots as Maccabi cut the gap to 58-59 on a Parker jumper. Haislip went outside for a mid-range shot, however Baston out-did him with a basket that drew Haislip's fourth foul. The made free throw tied it 61-61, although Kutluay got an extra foul shot to preserve a 61-62 Ulker edge after 30 minutes.
Baston started the fourth quarter with a basket inside to give Maccabi its first lead since the opening minutes of the game. Aggressive defense forced Ulker to shoot from outside, but it also saw Maccabi whistled for 3 fouls in less than 2 minutes. Kutluay's bomb tied the game at 65-65, but an animated Solomon fired back with a triple and then drove the lane to put his team up 70-65. With the game starting to slip away, Ulker coach Ergin Ataman called timeout. But when Arnold slammed home Solomon's missed three, the hosts retained all the momentum. Ataman went to the drawing board one more time with his team down 74-67 and 4:18 remaining. But a missed Kutluay three and Solomon finding Arnold inside for a bucket proved too much for the guests. A Solomon basket, Parker free throws and Haislip's fifth foul with 3:03 to go signaled the beginning of the end. A basket that was taken away from Baston for charging gave the guests some hope, but an offensive foul on Kutluay ended that. Solomon fed Baston for a slam with 2 minutes. The loss proved even costlier for Ulker as Kutluay injured a finger while stumbling with the ball in the final minute.
Thursday, March 2, 2006