The steamroller that has been CSKA Moscow all season flattened a path through the capital of Spain on Thursday in the form of an 80-93 road win against Real Madrid that guaranteed the winners first place in Group C. Point guard J.R. Holden was the man responsible for CSKA Moscow's big show. His 29 points and a fantastic third quarter deprived Madrid of the opportunity to practically seal its qualification to the Top 16. The win improves CSKA's record to 10-2 and a sure first-place finish, making it the first team to also be assured to be a group leader in the Top 16. Meanwhile, Madrid drops to 6-6 but retains its fourth-place tie with Virtus Bologna, who also lost. Apart from Holden, the guests were led by Victor Alexander with 19 points, Darius Songaila added 15 and Serguey Panov contributed 10. For Real Madrid, Lucas Victoriano and Derrick Alston nailed 18 points apiece, Alex Mumbru tallied 16 and Eduardo Hernandez-Sonseca added 13 and 12 boards.
Between Mumbru and Alston, Real Madrid jumped to an 11-2 in minute 6 that gave some hopes to the hosts, but when coach Dusan Ivkovic decided that Songaila had to have more shots, things started to change. Songaila also dragged Holden into the vortex, and after 10 minutes, the guests had already cut the deficit to 23-17.
Dragan Tarlac wasn't able to put on one of his usual performances, and as minutes went by, the play of Real Madrid started to run out of ideas. A 5-15 run put CSKA ahead, 25-29. But that rhythm was hard to keep, even for CSKA, and thanks to Mumbru, Alston and Victoriano, the hosts jumped back ahead, to hit the lockerrooms with a 9-point lead, 47-38.
The reaction continued after resumption, as in minute 21, Real Madrid was leading by 10 points, 51-41. It looked like the guests had solved their problems. But it only looked like. CSKA let Holden and Songaila take care of the situation again, while Alexander put the Russians ahead again with less than one minute for the end of the period, which Holden sealed from downtown, 63-65.
But there was more left for the hosts, as in the first minute of the last quarter, the gap increased without stop, 63-70. Real Madrid started to play too fast and committedthe same mistakes as in the first half. Victoriano tried it alone, but it was too much to defeat a powerful CSKA, who is more leader than ever.
Thursday, January 30, 2003