Lietuvos Rytas shook off a two-game losing streak and returned to the top of Group B by dominating Cibona for a 93-59 home win in Vilnius, Lithuania on Wednesday. The victory gave L. Rytas a 5-2 record, the same as Unicaja after it lost simultaneously at Efes Pilsen. At the halfway mark in the regular season, both will tie for the group lead with either Maccabi or Aris after those teams play Thursday. Cibona, now 3-4, fell to sixth place. L. Rytas took a double-digit lead in the first quarter and never looked back on the way to victory. Marijonas Petravicius paced the winners inside the paint, with 17 points, while Chuck Eidson and Hollis Price poured in 13 each from the perimeter. Kenan Bajramovic came off the bench for 13 more, wile Darrel Mitchell, in what is believed to be his last game for L. Rytas, added 10. For Cibona, three players managed to score in double digits: Sam Hoskin with 21 points, Damir Mulaomerovic with 16 and Chris Warren with 10. The rest of the team combined managed only 12 points, however.
Vedran Vukuric scored to get Cibona on the scoreboard first, and then L. Rytas had really bad news as Hoolis Price fell hard and left the game. His substitute, Mindaugas Lukauskis, arrived more than ready, scoring off an offensive rebound and forcing a technical foul on Marin Rozic to put the hosts ahead 5-2. Cibona was shook but not broken, as Vukusic, Damir Mulaoemrovic and Warren fueled a 0-6 run to put the visitors ahead, 5-8. Matt Nielsen and Eidson answered for L. Rytas to make it 12-8, after which Cibona went cold for 3 minutes against the hosts' defense Hoskin finally scored a difficult jumper to which Rozic added a free throw at 14-11. Bajramovic penetrated for a basket as soon as he entered for L. Rytas, and after Eidson landed his second triple, Mitchell added free throws for the game's first double-digit advantage on the way to a 23-14 lead after 10 minutes.
Price came back on court to start the second quarter by assisting Arturas Jomantas for a three-pointer. Cibona looked confused on offense, while Petravicius pushed the hosts way ahead at 30-14. Shooting ace Larry Ayuso stepped on court for Cibona, but perhaps it was too late already as L. Rytas followed Eidson's scoring to a huge 34-14 lead after just 13 minutes. Cibona still had no points in the quarter while L. Rytas had made 11 of 13 two-point shots in the game so far. Warren broke the silece for the visitors and Luksa Andric added a free throw at 36-17, but Bajramovic matched them with a triple. With Ayuso completely shut down, Cibona had to find other ways to score which it did but not enough to start reducing the deficit, which hit 44-23 after free throws by hot Bajramovic. Mitchell widened the lead even more, converting a triple before L. Rytas headed to the lockers in total command, 47-25 at halftime.
Both teams were silent for the first minute after the break, until Hoskins found his way to the basket, 47-27. Hoskins scored again as L. Rytas looked sluggish on offense until the energetic Price stepped up with a three-point play, his first points all game, and Lukauskis flew to the hoop to make it 54-29. Mulaomerovic tried to spark Cibona with 5 points in a minute but was matched by Nielsen and Petravicius as the game and the intrigue eased. L. Rytas got the better of the ensuing exchang of baskets unitl a three by Eidson gave the hosts an enormous 65-38 lead. Ayuso scored his first points for Cibona, but L. Rytas was already too far ahead 70-42 after 30 minutes.
Bajramovic detonated a massive dunk off a dish by Price to keep the fans pumped in the fourth quarter. He and Mitchell, who was due to be released following this game, didn't let Cibona even think about getting just a little closer. After a timeout, Ayuso left with an injury while L. Rytas brought in fan favorite Andrius Slezas, an original L. Rytas player, to an explosion of joy at Siemens Arena. The losing streak was over, L. Rytas was back in first place in Group B, and all was right with basketball fans in Vilnius again.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007