Lukoil Academic made a move in the Group C standings on Tuesday when it topped visiting Khimki Moscow 91-82 in come-from-behind fashion at home in Sofia, Bulgaria. Lukoil raised its record to 3-2 and dropped Khimki to 2-3 while extending its ULEB Cup home winning-streak to nine games. Khimki led early and often, taking up to a double-digit led early in the second quarter before Lukoil's shooters started making shots. Still, Khimki led by 7 at haltime and by a basket after three quarters. A pair of fourth-quarter runs totalling 16-2 made the difference for Lukoil as Riste Stefanov posted 3 triples and all 12 of his points in the final 10 minutes. The ULEB Cup all-time scoring leader, Todor Stoykov, led the winners with 20 points, while Gjorgji Cekovski nailed 17 and Jamel Brown 13. Matching Stefanov with 12 points was Lamont Jones, who added 7 assists and 3 steals, while Mate Skelin flirted with double-double thanks to 9 points and 9 rebounds. For Khimki, Maciej Lampe bagged 17 points, Kelly McCarty 14, Ruben Wolkowyski 13, Oscar Torres 11, while Ademola Okulaja posted 9 and pulled down 10 rebounds.
McCarty opened fire assisted by Okulaja for the guests from Khimki, while Vitaly Fridzon with a back-to-back jumper boosted them in front 1-6. Lukoil didn't score until sixth shot, by Skelin, made it 3-6. The big man added another which Stoykov followed from downtown to give Lukoil its first lead, 8-6. Khimki hit back with a 0-8 run in which Fridzon had half the points for an 8-14 score that forced a Lukoil timeout. Stoykov took charge for the hosts with his second triple, 11-14, while Pozzecco stepped up with another for Khimki. The teams then exchanged baskets underneath before Oscar Torres scored from the arc to keep the visitors from Khimki comfortably ahead, 17-24, after one quarter. Another three-pointer by Pozzecco gave Khimki its first double-digit advantage, 19-29, early in the second quarter. Cekovski dunked to cut the difference to 23-39, but Lampe's layup assisted by Pozzecco restored a 10-point difference, 23-33, in the 14th minute. Lukoil was struggling from long distance until Stoykov found the mark from downtown and Cekovski netted another to pull the hosts within 29-35. Lukoil also adjusted its defense while Stoykov from the foul line capped an 11-2 run to make it 34-35 with 90 seconds left until halftime. Khimki again struck back as Wolkowyski and Okulaja hit consecutive triples to restor a 36-43 cushion for the guests at the half.
Stoykov sounded the charge for the home team with another shot from downtown after the break. Cekovski soon reduced the margin to 41-43, but Wolkowyski stopped Khimki's scoring slide and Okulaja followed by boosting his advantage to 42-47. Jones joined Lukoil's three-point party and made a steal that Cekovski converted for a game-tying layup at 47-47. Lampe answered for Khimki, but Cekovski again bombed from downtown for a new Lukoil lead, 50-49, midway through the third quarter. Khimki didn't give up, but retook control with a 2-8 run highlighted by 5 points from McCarty. Soon, however, Brown scored 1 of 2 free throws for another tie before Lampe scored from a 59-61 Khimki advantage after 30 minutes. Stefanov came to the rescue in the final quarter for Lukoil, scoring 5 points and Brown 4 in a 9-2 run that pushed the hosts in front by 68-63. Wolkowyski, Stefanov and Torres then alternated triples, allowing the guests to climb within 73-71 with 5 minutes left. Jones grabbed a defensive board and scored at the other end to make it 77-71 before Stefanov from downtown gave Lukoil its best margin of the game, 80-71. With the crowd behind him, Jones answered a triple by McCarty and Cekovski exploded another bomb to make it 85-76, assuring that Lukoil would move past Khimki in the standings after one half of the group stage.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006