A duel to the finish in Group D on Tuesday saw Zadar of Croatia hold onto a 73-71 victory over Metis Varese of Italy after having given up all of an 11-point lead entering the final quarter. Marko Popovic was the hero for Zadar, scoring the final 10 points for the winners after Varese had tied 61-61 by scoring the first 11 points of the final quarter. Andrea Meneghin had brought Varese back with 3 three-pointers in the fourth, but he missed his last two attempts from behind the arc in the final minute. Popovic finished with 18 points, Marko Samanic 17 and Michael Meeks 16 for Zadar, whose Group D record improves to 2-0. Varese, now 1-1, got 14 points each from Rusty La Rue and Shawnell Scott, who also pulled 18 rebounds, 10 on offense. Boris Gorenc and Ryan McCormack added 10 points each.
The game started in the paint with Samanic and Scott forging a 4-4 tie, but it didn't stay inside long. Soon Zadar was shooting itself ahead 12-4 on three-pointers by Mladen Erjavec and Popovic. Gorenc asnwered with his own three, however, and Scott helped pull the guests back within 14-11. Then Zadar found another offensive threat, Michael Meeks. He drilled his own three-pointer, then another, the fourth for Zadar in 9 attempts on the quarter, to proel the home team to its biggest lead so far, 23-12, after 10 minutes. To hold onto that lead in the second quarter, Zadar concentrated inside, as Samanic and Erjavec went to work and got to the line as the margin held at 33-23. Scott was singlehandedly keeping Varese in the game then, with 8 points and 8 rebounds, but now his second foul gave Samanic 2 more free throws for a 35-26 Zadar lead. Now, Varese got a pair of helping hands on the perimeter in the form of three-pointers by Ryan McCormack and Rusty LaRue. A McCormack layup made it 37-31, but Hrvoje Perincic ended that run with a triple for Zadar. Meeks kept the lead strong at the foul line, 45-35, but Varese scored 4 near the end to get as close as 47-39 at the half. Samanic was up to 14 points already for the home team, Meeks 11, while McCormack and Scott were on 10 each for Varese.
No sooner did the second half start than Zadar reestablished its big lead. A layup by Popovic and a three-pointer by Samanic put the scoreboard at 52-39. Within a couple minutes, it read 59-43 as Meeks launched up another good shot from downtown. The teams settled into a scoreless stretch punctuated only by free throws. Varese got a few more of those, but not enough to get closer than 61-50 after 30 minutes. It was looking quite uphill for the guests, until that fourth quarter started, then all of Varese's shots started falling. Francesco Vescovi sank the first 5 points, Andrea Meneghin popped his first three, and then LaRue copied him for an 0-11 start to the quarter and a sudden, 61-61 tie on the scoreboard. But just as suddenly, Popovic responded with 2 consecutive triples of his own, putting Zadar back ahead, 67-61, with 5 minutes to go. It was veteran vs. young buck, however, as Meneghin drilled 2 more from downtown to pull Varese within 69-67. A tense couple minutes ensued in which only a free throw by Scott fell through, making it a one-point game, 69-68. Popovic reappeared at the foul line to make 2 more points, but so did Scott for Varese, and when Gorence added another, the teams headed into the final minute locked at 71-71. Varese had one possession with three tries, including a Meneghin three, but could not score. Of course, Popovic ended up with the ball and two free throws, both good. Meneghin tried then to win it with a three, but it missed and Zadar had its second ULEB Cup win.
Tuesday, October 22, 2002