Ulker started the 2004-05 Euroleague in style by beating the Opel Skyliners 52-82 in Frankfurt on Wednesday night in Group C. Ulker will likely become the first leader in Group C due to the points differential, while the Skyliners dropped to 0-1 in a blind night on the offensive end in which the hosts made just 21 of 69 shot attempts. Saulius Stombergas led the winners with 20 points on 7 of 11 two-pointers, 6 of 6 free throws and 13 rebounds. Dion Glover added 17 while Kerem Gonlum had 11 points and 9 rebounds for Ulker. Tyrone Ellis had 22 points on 8 of 11 two-pointers as the only player to reach double digits for the Skyliners. Everything went right for the guests and nothing right for the hosts from almost the very start of the game as Ulker handed its old coach, Murat Didin, his first Euroleague loss on the Frankfurt bench.
Despite an opening basket by Robert Maras, Ulker's 2-3 zone defense excelled in the early going. Meanwhile, Glover was unstoppable in the other end, scoring 7 points in a 0-11 run which gave the guests a 2-11 margin after 4 minutes. The Skyliners could not find the way to the basket, missing 7 shots in a row until Ellis drilled a three-pointer from the left corner which happened to be a wake-up call for the hosts. Chris Williams and Malick Badiane added a basket a piece to bring the Skyliners within 9-12. However, Ulker controlled the game due to its strong defense and balanced offense, pushed by a good number of Turkish fans in the crowd. Glover made his fourth jumper of the quarter to give the guests a 11-19 margin at the end of the first. The Skyliners made just 4 of 21 shots in the opening 10 minutes, as the numbers spoke for Ulker's defense.
Ellis tried to bring the Skyliners back to life early in the second with a long two-pointer, which Viriginijus Parskevicius matched in the other end. Ulker carried on dominating in the defensive end, while a mid-range jumper by Stombergas gave Ulker a double-digit lead, 15-27, after 13 minutes. Opel called timeout, but nothing changed, the hosts lacked concentration in defense and carried on struggling in the other end, with 3 consecutive turnovers. Meanwhile, a big three by Serkan Erdogan and 7 points by an unstoppable Stombergas gave the guests a 17-37 margin, after a 2-13 run. Nothing changed until halftime, as the Skyliners only added a jumper by Badiane before the break, while Eurelijus Zukauskas, Erdogan and Stombergas, who had 14 points in this period, powered Ulker to a mamooth 20-48 halftime lead. The Skyliners made 7 of 37 field goal attempts in the opening half.
Opel needed a quick comeback to get into the game, but it just didn't happen. Ulker played with longer possessions, and even when the Skyliners' defense improved, Stombergas helped the guests to exchange baskets with their opponents. Ulker looked for Fatih Solak and Gonlum in the middle, while a catch-and-shoot three by Tunceri extended the guests' lead to 26-61, as Ulker fans in the crowd went wild. The hosts slightly improved with Maras and Bernd Kruel teaming up near the basket, but it was too late. Despite a 6-0 final run, the Skyliners trailed 37-63 entering the fourth.
Even when the outcome was clear, Ulker carried on extending its lead in the final period. Only Ellis seemed to fire back for the Skyliners, but Ulker managed to keep a 30-point margin throughout the fourth. The guests' defense limited the Skyliners to just 1 points in almost 3 minutes, as only Ellis seemed to find the way to the basket, with 9 points in the final period, but it happened to be too little, too late. In fact, Opel made just 2 of 18 three-pointers, as Ulker had no problems to add an easy win.
Wednesday, November 3, 2004