Ulker Istanbul had to sweat to win its fourth Group C game on the road in Wroclaw on Wednesday, but in the end, the Turkish side was able to beat Idea Slask 84-93 as Melvin Booker was the hero, scoring 14 of the last 15 points for the visitors to put them ahead for good. Ulker improves to 4-2 in the standings while Idea Slask, despite a valiant comeback, drops to 2-4. Three players led Ulker with 20 points each and their names are not hard to guess: Booker, Joseph Blair and Virginijus Praskevicius. Blair added 10 boards for a double-double. Miljan Goljovic also scored in double digits for Ulker with 12 points on 4-for-6 three-point shooting. For Idea Slask, Dominik Tomczyk netted 17 points and pulled 7 rebounds, Maciej Zielinski added 14 and Richard Lugo contributed 11.
The game started well for the hosts, whose new center, Alvin Jones, scored the first basket of the night. After 3 minutes, Idea Slask had jumped ahead at 10-5, but Ulker woke up fast with a Harun Erdenay four-point play and a Booker basket that put the visitors ahead 10-11. Erdenay was undoubtedly the best man in the first 10 minutes, as he sank another three to put his team ahead again at 13-14. Slask moved the ball until they found the better option in the paint, where Aleksander Koul was dominating. But the problem for the hosts was a lack of accuracy from short range. Ulker took advantage of that situation to rally to 15-21 in minute 7. Erdenay made his ninth point from the free throw line, as a zone defense of Slask managed to stop the quick offense of Ulker, at least for a while. In the offensive end, Koul was the main reference for the hosts in the paint, with and without the ball, rebounding and attracting defenders. Praskevicius became the perfect partner for Erdenay in the Ulker offense, so when the end of the first period arrived, the guests led by 4 points, 25-29.
Ulker improved its performance at the beginning of the second quarter as Blair got in his usual playing mood. Jones slammed for the hosts and the fans exploded to try to give wings to their team, but Blair scored again off his own offensive rebound for a 27-35 scoreboard. Zielinski helped the hosts throughout the period, but his teammates had too many difficulties in moving the ball to attack Ulker's basket, always resorting to long-range shots that didn't want to go in. A three by Goljovic gave Ulker its first double-digit lead, 29-40. While the backcourts of both teams tried to find their way with long shots, Koul and Blair were protagonists of a duel in the paint that made sparks fly. Blair got the best of it as he reached 11 points as the Ulker lead hit 35-45. Andrius Giedraitis gave some hope from downtown to Idea Slask, but 5 straight points for Ulker - Goljovic from three again and Tutku Acik on a fastbreak - left the score at 40-50 in the visitors' favor at the break.
After resumption the game balanced out, which meant that Ulker maintained its lead always around 10 points. The defenses grew even tougher and both teams found it really difficult to score despite another three by Goljovic early in the period. Praskevicius had a putback for 45-57 as he became the main reference for Ulker. Slask's Pawel Wiekiera hit a three for 48-57, but then committed his fourth foul. Soon a monster block by Tomczyk on Serkan Erdogan got the crown fired up again, and a three-point play by Tomczyk himself a minute later made it 53-61. That sparked a reaction from the hosts that put them as close as 61-65 with Jones slamming in the last seconds of the quarter. But Blair found a way to score in the last breath for the guests to hold a 61-67 advantage after 30 minutes.
Idea Slask would have to give it all in the last period to try to win the game, and the fans at the arena can take some credit that they did. Tomczyk got the party started with a three for 64-67, but Goljovic matched it, starting this period as he had all the others. But Slask was back for real, and first Lugo from under the rim and then Adomaitis off a perfect fastbreak, left with just one basket to make up at 68-70 with 7 minutes still to go. The crowd went nuts. Ulker practically ran out of ideas in offense, and Blair could only hit the layup on the 24-second buzzer for 68-72. The two following plays saw first a block by Blair and another one by Lugo on the other side, leading to a Slask fastbreak. The ball ended in Tomczyk's hands and he hit another three for 71-72. On the following play, Lugo slammed to culminate a 9-2 run to put his team ahead, 73-72. Ulker coach Tolga Ongoren was forced to call a timeout to kill Slask's momentum and he achieved it the Turks came back with 4 quick points. The hosts kept trying as they saw the win within their reach, but then came Booker. The point guard scored 9 straight points for his team, including a three-pointer that cooled things down in Wroclaw and put 78-87 on the board with less than 1 minute to go. Adomaitis didn't surrender and scored from the 6.25 line, but the quick fouls by Slask to stop the clock were always on Booker, who didn't miss from the charity line.
Wednesday, November 13, 2002