It was much like the good old times in Bologna, Italy on Wednesday as VidiVici Virtus returned to the Euroleague with an exciting 81-75 comeback home win over visiting Zalgiris Kaunas in the Group A opener for both teams. Virtus took over a tight game midway through the final quarter and made big plays like old pros down the stretch to deny Zalgiris. Alan Anderson made his personal Euroleague debut a memorable one by drilling 28 points while making 6 of 9 two-point shots, 3 of 6 triples and 7 of 8 free throws for the winners. Will Conroy was the other Virtus player scoring in double figures, with 11 points. Zalgirs got 15 points from Paulius Jankunas and 11 each from Jonas Maciulis and Dejuan Collins but got hurt by poor, 6-for-28 three-point accuracy (21%). One triple that fell for Zalgiris, by Dainius Salenga, tied the game 69-69 with 3 minutes left, but Andrea Crosariol's next basket started a 6-0 spurt that put Virtus in front for good.
Zalgiris Kaunas opened its Euroleague season in the right way as Paulius Jankunas grabbed an offensive rebounds scored and made an additional foul shot, too. After Giovannoni opened scoring for Virtus, Jankunas again had an easy layup to put Zalgiris up 2-5 after 2 minutes. Back-to-back three-pointers by Conroy tied the game at 7-7 and 10-10 for Virtus, but the guests kept leading the game as Dejuan Collins hit foul shots and Marcus Brown nailed his second straight triple to put Kaunas in front, 10-15, midway through the quarter. Running on turnovers by Virtus, Zalgiris maintained a five-point lead thanks to fastbreak baskets by Salenga and Collins that put the score at 14-19 after 8 minutes. The hosts responded before the quarter ended, however, as a put-back by Crosariol and a free throw by Alan Anderson trimmed the Zalgiris advantage to 19-21 after 10 minutes.
The Virtus defense pumped up the volume to begin the second quarter as Luca Garri and Anderson exploited steals to put the hosts in front, 23-21, for the first time. After Anderson and Marko Popovic traded triples, Zalgiris took the lead again with an offensive rebound put back by Goran Jurak and another three-point shot by Popovic at 26-31. Fabio Di Bella's defensive efforts helped Virtus to block that Zalgiris run, but the hosts' offense could not take advantage as Zalgiris resumed scoring for its highest lead yet, 28-35, thanks to another offensive board from Jurak. Again, Virtus gave its best in the closing minutes of the quarter as Anderson scored diving for a loose ball and Guillerme Giovannoni hit a buzzer-beating triple to pull the hosts within 37-39 at halftime.
Anderson got Virtus going in the secondl half with a three-pointer that made it a one-point game at 40-41. Later, a layup by Roberto Chiacig put Virtus in front while Anderson, with a pull-up shot, lifted the hosts ahead by 46-43. Zalgiris resumed feeding the ball inside to Eurelijus Zukauskas and the big man made big plays on the way to a 49-49 tie midway through the quarter. Anderson's eighth point in the quarter and a dunk by Chiacig gave Virtus its highest lead so far, 54-50, before Zukauskas again took Zalgiris on his shoulders to keep the guests as close as 54-53. Zalgiris was inspired then to keep the rally going, using defense to take steals and rattle off back-to-back fastbreaks by Jankunas and Tanoka Beard. By the time Jurak downed more free throws, Zalgiris had a four-point lead, 57-61, after three quarters.
A high-altitude hook from Crosariol opened final quarter for Virtus, just before Anderson tied the game with a reverse layup, 61-61. Maciulis got a inside bucket and Collins hit a floater as Zalgiris took a new four-point lead, 61-65. Virtus, however, survived as Zalgiris missed a couple of open shots to tie it up 65-65 on Giovannoni's fastbreak dunk. Anderson added hit a pair of free throws before the Virtus double-teamed Beard to provoke a steal that Di Bella converted as another fastbreak, 69-65. After a timeout, Zalgiris posted a 0-4 run to tie again at 69-69 with a three-pointer by Salenga, but Virtus soon replied as Crosariol, Spencer and Anderson scored 6 unanswered points to fix a 75-69 scoreboard with 2 minutes on the clock. Zalgiris could not give up, however, and an amazing three-pointer by Popovic froze the Bologna crowd, while a free throw by Beard made it a two-point game again, 75-73 with 50 seconds to play. In the key possession, the best man of the night for the hosts, Anderson, took over the scene. His great assist to Spencer and 4 straight foul shots iced the outcome and let the Virtus crowd enjoy the best possible return to Euroleague Basketball.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007