Lietuvos Rytas returned to the ULEB Cup for the first time since winning the 2005 title with a tough 81-69 win over Hemofarm Vrsac at Siemens Arena in Vilnius, Lithuania. The hosts stumbled out of the gate as Hemofarm raced to an early 1-14 lead. The visitors were ahead 34-39 at halftime, before Andrius Slezas sparked a 10-1 run late in the third period that gave L. Rytas the lead for good as it started its Group A campaign with a victory. Roberts Stelmahers was stellar down the stretch, as the hosts added to their lead and closed out the game. Slezas led the winning effort with 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Stelmahers had 17 points and 5 assists and Marijonas Petravicius finished with 10. Nebojsa Joksimovic led Hemofarm with 17, Milos Borisov pounded out 15 points and 10 rebounds and Milenko Topic added 12.
Hemofarm jumped on top through Velimir Radinovic's baby hook and a layup from Stefan Markovic. Hemofarm's zone defense caused L. Rytas fits, as the visitors, using powerful Radinovic in the paint continued their fantastic start and took an early 1-11 lead. A timeout didn't help the hosts as Borisov sank another triple (1-14) before Matt Nielsen hit back-to-back jumpers to reduce the deficit to 9. Nielsen buried one from outside, but it didn't help the hosts as Hemofarm started a three-point shooting fiesta and built a double-digit lead after 10 minutes, 14-26. Slezas came fresh off the bench and hit a three before Arturas Jomantas added a layup and reduced the visitors' lead to 19-26. Topic answered with two free throws, but Petravicius didn't miss from the line and Titus Ivory and Slezas sank from outside as part of a 13-2 L. Rytas run that brough the hosts within 1. Joksimovic scored on a fastbreak, but Slezas continued to be the star of the second quarter. After another layup, he stole the ball and allowed Stelmahers to put L. Rytas in front for the first time in the game, 33-32. However, a late 1-7 run, including a buzzer beater by Topic, put Hemofarm ahead 34-39 at halftime.
Joksimovic made two from the line to open the second half, before Andre Emmett answered with three the-hard-way to close the gap to 37-41. Petravicius used his size to score in the paint and then Emmett tied the game at 41-41, just three minutes into the third period. Nielsen picked up his fourth foul as Hemofarm regained its lead, 45-47, but Petravicius dominated in the paint and tied the score. Miljan Rakic heated up with a triple, but a free-throw and a layup from Slezas put L. Rytas in charge, 52-51. Hemofarm tried to change things with a timeout, but the hosts remained steady and closed the third quarter with a strong 10-1 run. Joao Paulo Batista scored his first points for L. Rytas off a nice dish by Stelmahers, who then hit a jumper himself. Topic and Borisov kept the hope alive for Hemofarm, combining for 5 points and fixing the score at 61-56. Slezas and Borisov exchanged three-pointers before the L. Rytas captain, Stelmahers, nailed one from downtown and built a 67-59 lead for the hosts with 4:30 left in the last quarter. Slezas rebounded well inside the paint to draw a foul by Radinovic and converted two from the line to give L. Rytas its first double-digit lead, 71-61. Topic tried to save the day for Hemofarm with a basket-plus foul, but Stelmahers was perfect from the line and secured the win for Lietuvos Rytas, 81-69.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006