Lietuvos Rytas claimed its first-ever Top 16 victory and took a share of second place in Group F on Wednesday when it downed visiting GHP Bamberg 79-67. In a battle of the first two rookie teams in Euroleague history to reach the Top 16 in the same season, L. Rytas led for all but one possession early in the game and gave the sellout crowd of 11,000 in Siemens Arena plenty to hope for with a 1-1 record in the group. Bamberg, despite rallying late to within 72-66, fell to 0-2 and must regroup quickly to avoid elimination. Fred House played all 40 minutes and led L. Rytas with 19 points and 4 of the 19 steals by the winners. Robertas Javtokas added 15 points and 9 rebounds for L. Rytas, while Matt Nielsen followed with 11 points. Nelson Spencer was the big gun for Bamberg with 16 points, while Stefan Hamann chipped in 11. Bambert was hurt in particular by 20-for-34 free throw shooting.
L. Rytas got on the board first as Nielsen scored a free throw and a fade-away jumper. Robert Garrett scored at the line to get Bamberg going, then Nelson's first basket put the visitors up 3-4. It would be Bamberg's last led of the game as House got himself started with a close-in basket followed by a triple that shot L. Rytas in front 8-4. After Uvis Helmanis and Javtokas exchanged baskets, Garrett blasted Bamberg's first three-pointer to draw the guests within 11-9. But again L. Rytas pulled away. House's jumper in the paint and a triple by Simas Jasaitis made it 16-9 before recent signee Dickey Simpkins, himself a former L. Rytas player, made a basket for Bamberg. However, Nielsen and House both scored inside for a brief double-digit lead, 22-12, before the quarter ended with free throws by Helmanis that fixed a 22-14 score after 10 minutes.
House stayed on fire by driving for another basket to open the second quarter while Nielsen played added a jump-hook to his team's total. Chris Ensminger and Javtokas traded free throws before Mike Nahar and Nelson combined for 4 points that cut the margin to single digits, 27-19. When Javtokas added his own hook to the hosts' dominance inside, Bamberg needed a timeout. It didn't help, however, as House fed Jasaitis for a uncontested layup that made and Haris Mujezinovic's free throw completed a 6-0 run midway through the second quarter that left L. Rytas up 33-19. Steffen Hamann and Mujezinovic exchanged triples,while Stelmahers got his third personal foul and was benched immediately. However, Hamann made only one three throw, while Mujezinovic hit from behind the arc. Povilas Cukinas 's dunk attempt was rejected by Nelson, but Bamberg did not convert it to points at very end of the second quarter, as the scoreboard fixed a 38-27 halftime margin.
Simpkins started the second half by forcing a foul, scoring from the low post and then adding another basket inside on the next possesion. When Demond Mallett made his only points of the game on a three-pointer, Bamberg ws within 41-34. When Jasaitis tried to widen the gap again with a triple, the red-hot Simpkins copied him, and the problems of L. Rytas were complicated when Baker got a flagrant foul. After Nelson coverted those free throws, Hamann drove for a basket-plus-free throw that completed a 0-6 run for the guests, who were as close as 45-41. That's when Javtokas and Roberts Stelmahers proved to be true leaders for the hosts, combining for 4 points to lift the lead to 49-42. House then reappeared with free throws and a jumper before Stelmahers capped an 11-0 run with a three-pointer tht made it 56-42. To pairs of free throws by Helmanis, L. Rytas responded with triples from Nielsen and House to escape the third quarter in full charge 62-48.
After Nielsen splashed a massive alley-oop dunk on a nice dish from House early in the last quarter, Nelson and Ensminger combined for 5 points that reduced Bamberg's deficit to 64-54. Andrius Slezas answered with a jumper and added free throws for L. Rytas as Bamberg saw Ensminger leave with five fouls. The Bamberg defense tightened now while Derrick Phelps scored free throws while Nelson downed a triple, cutting the margin to 68-59. When Robert Garrett also hit from the arce, Bamberg was withing 68-62. A spectacular dunk by Javtokas ended the scare for L. Rytas. Phelps and Stelmahers exchanged free throws and Hamann scored in penetration before Garrett missed both of is shots from a line. When Javtokas dunked again and Slezas buried a triple, L. Rytas had its first-ever Top 16 victory to remember forever.
Wednesday, March 1, 2006