Panathinaikos became the Group C champion by thrashing Fenerbahce Ulker 88-68 at the Athens Indoor Olympic Arena on Thursday. Panathinaikos improved to 12-1, kept the best record in the competition and enters the Top 16 draw as one of the top-seeded teams. Meanwhile, Fenerbahce dropped to 6-7, but had already qualified for the Top 16 on Wednesday, when Cibona’s loss meant sent the Turkish champs through. Sarunas Jasikevicius paced the winners with 23 points, Vassilis Spanoulis added 12 and Mike Batiste grabbed 11 rebounds for the Greens. Tarence Kinsey led Fenerbahce with 20 points and Gasper Vidmar and James White added 12 each for Fenerbahce, which played without rebounding ace Mirsad Turkcan and whose superstar Willie Solomon was limited to just 5 points. Panathinaikos led 16-15 after 10 minutes but an outstanding Jasikevicius helped the Greens to a 42-29 halftime lead. Nothing changed after the break, as outstanding ball circulation allowed Panathinaikos to boost its margin to 70-47 after 30 minutes, enough to seal the outcome long before the final buzzer.
In front of a boisterous crowd, both teams came out flat committing back-to-back turnovers. After two scoreless minutes, Omer Onan fired in a triple from the corner to get the scoreboard rolling. Andrija Zizic responded with a layup, only to be followed by Vidmar’s three-point play that made it 2-6. Panathinaikos was clearly out of rhythm offensively, until Nikos Hatzivrettas came up big with 4 quick points to tie the game at 9-9. The hosts did not capitalize on their opponents struggles at the free-throw line, so when Solomon unleashed a three-ball, Fenerbahce regained the lead. However, Batiste saved the last word for himself, as he muscled his way for a basket and the free-throw that came with it to put the Greens in front 16-15 after 10 minutes.
The second quarter got underway with Jasikevicius providing the brains and Demos Dikoudis scoring, so it wasn’t long before Panathinaikos built a double-digit lead. A pair of Jasikevicius free throws capped a decisive 9-0 run that boosted the margin to 32-19, while at the other end Fenerbahce was struggling against the zone-defense – scoring only with free throws and missing numerous open shots. Eventually, after almost seven minutes and a couple of timeouts by Fener head coach Bogdan Tanjevic, White found his way to the basket. However Panathinaikos was now in high gear offensively. As a result, the momentum of the game did not shift and the hosts widened the gap to 42-29 at intermission.
Early on in the second half, Kinsey picked up the scoring slack, but so did Jasikevicius. He drilled a triple and then after Kinsey was given a technical foul, Saras knocked down 2 free throws and a long jumper to extend the lead to 49-33. Fragiskos Alvertis came off the bench to up the ante with back-to-back three-pointers, which widened the lead to 59-39 and brought the crowd to its feet. With admiral Jasikevicius navigating the ship, the Greens were unstoppable offensively. Soon a corner triple by the Lithuanian master put any hopes of a Fenerbahce comeback out of reach, as Panathinaikos rushed to a 70-47 lead with one period remaining.
Kinsey opened the fourth quarter with a three-point play to show that he was not willing to go down without a fight. However, as indicated by the subsequent jaw-dropping fast-break passing play by Panathinaikos’s backcourt players that led to an uncontested Spanoulis layup, the hosts were too confident to be stunned by any late heroics now. Even though down the stretch White threw down a thunderous dunk and Omer Asik rejected Dikoudis’s dunk attempt, there was no turning back as Panathinaikos cruised to the win.
Thursday, January 24, 2008