The team that has to be considered the surprise of the season so far has done it again! Opel Skyliners of Frankfurt pulled off their third straight win 74-76 on the road at Zalgiris Kaunus of Lithuania on Thursday. Frankfurt is now 3-1 in Group B while Zalgiris has fallen to a totally unexpected 0-4. Frankfurt put five scorers in double figures led by Virgil Stanescu with 19. Marcus Goree added 14, Chad Austin and Pascal Roller 12 each, and Alexander Lohmancuk 10 to lift the visitors to the thrilling win. A Goree pass to Lohmancuk for a slam dunk with almost two minutes left proved the game-winner. Frankfurt did the rest with defense, as Zalgiris missed two three-point attempts while failing to take advantage of a pair of turnovers by the visitors. Andrius Jurkunas had 18 points to lead Zalgiris, Dainius Salenga 16 points, Donatas Slanina 12 and Grygorij Hiznjak 11.
It was a run-and-gun game at the beginning with Zalgiris for a while set up in zone defense. Coach Algyris Brazys tried Tomas Masiulis but after a couple of airballs deemed it too soon after injry for him to be an impact player on offense. It was already more Frankfurt's than Zalgiris's game, as Virgil Stanescu and Marcus Goree scored 5 points each in as many minutes. Dainius Salenga answered with 5 of his own in a row, and it was up and down through the end of the first quarter, when the leadership and nice outside shot of guard Kai Nurnberger helped Frankfurt to a 20-22 lead.
Zalgiris opened the second quarter with an 8-0 run that was good enough for the hosts to still lead 30-24 halfway through. Frankfurt slowed the tempo somewhat, but not Andrius Jurkunas, who scored 10 points in the period as Zalgiris shot ahead, 40-30. Only Stanescu was threatening on offense for Frankfurt until Roller and Lohmancuk combined for 6 unanswered points to trim the lead to 40-36.
After the break, it was Frankfurt's turn to play zone. Stanescue and Jurkunas traded buckets, while Hiznjak kept the quick Frankfurt forwards guessing with his fine shot-blocking presence. But Roller hit for three while Slanina missed, and then a huge four-point play by Stanescu put the visitors back on top, 46-47, halfway through the quarter. Stanescu just continued scoring until he was benched, as was Lohmancuk, with four fouls. But now Austin combined with Roller for six points as Frankfurt retook the lead, 55-59. While Hiznjak missed a difficult shot, Robert Maras made a buzzer beating tap-in to put the visitors further in front, 58-64.
Zalgiris could not keep Frankfurt from getting second chances on the offensive boards and increasing the margin to 60-68 two minutes into the final quarter. However, Salenga, Marciulionis, and Hiznjak close the gap to one basket, 66-68, forcing a Frankfurt timeout. The tensions caused more misses than hits for a couple minutes until Roller settles it with a great three-pointer for 66-71 Frankfurt lead with 4:33 to play. But Jurkunas was still hot and hit another three, his fourth of the night. With almost two minutes to go, Zalgiris had drawn within two, 73-75. A dramatic ending seemed in store, except no more points were scored. Defense decided it for Frankfurt and Zalgiris was left to wonder how it lost two home games, including the previous one against Ulker Istanbul by a total of three points.
Thursday, November 1, 2001