The resurgence of the Opel Skyliners of Frankfurt will come, but opening night was not the moment. Having travelled to Frankfurt without its first two centers, Barcelona struggled for three quarters before finally putting away frankfurt with a 74-88 Group B victory. Neither team could control the game, but the last time that Frankfurt threatened the lead was at 69-71 early in the fourth quarter. From there, veterans Nikos Ekonomou and Arturas Karnisovas squeezed out the baskets to counterbalance a strong closing defense by the visitors.
Barcelona went stright inside to start the game, something of a surprise since novice Alberto Alzamora was starting at center in the absence of Roberto Dueñas and Efthimious Rentzias, the former injured and the latter sick. Alzamora, Okulaja and even swingman Rodrigo De la Fuente found quick and easy layups as Barcelona eased ahead early, but it was a mirage. Goree hadn't scored yet, and when he started, on an offensive rebound, he didn't stop. Next came a drive, then a tip-in and a three-pointer on the break. Pascal Roller broke down his defender repeatedly for layups, and like that, Frankfurt won the first quarter 26-22.
Barcelona had the luxury of bringing Juan Carlos Navarro, Nikos Ekonomou and Arturas Karnisovas off the bench to help, but Frankfurt had its confidence now. Another offensive rebound and a block by Goree led a 6-0 run to a 34-27 lead for Frankfurt, matching its first-quarter high. Three-pointers by Ekonomou and Karnisovas cut that to 34-33, but the answer came with a thre from Chad Austin, who arrived to Frankfurt this week to replace injured scorer Tyron McCoy. Alex Lokhmanchuk hit his second from long distance to return the lead to 7, at 40-43, but two fine dunks by Alain Digbeu and Ademola Okulaja, combined with the first two points by point guard Sarunas Jasikevicius drew Barcelona within 43-42. In the final minute, a sweet triple by Digbeu put Barcelona ahead, 43-45, at the half.
Neither team could shake the other, however. With another Goree basket (he was up to 15 points) Frankfurt tied the game 57-57 midway through the third quarter. Barcelona was now playing with a center from its B team, Raymond Van de Hare of Holland, a 2.20-meter lad of 20, who fumbled his first couple chances. His teammates didn't give up on him, however, and a pair of his layups off their feeds ankored a 8-2 finish to the quarter that put Barcelona ahead 61-67.
Thursday, October 11, 2001