Mornar tops Buducnost to reach Top 16!
Mornar Bar claimed its historic first qualification for the 7DAYS EuroCup Top 16 by downing Buducnost VOLI Podgorica, its Montenegrin archrival, by 78-84 on the road on Wednesday. Both teams finished with 5-5 records in Group B, and since it won both of their games, Mornar took in third place and Buducnost fourth. Mornar used a 10-2 start to the third quarter to amass a high lead of 44-57, but Buducnost came back to tie 74-74 with 3:22 to play, after which Mornar scored the next 6 points to decide the matter. Jacob Pullen pumped in 20 points to lead Mornar. Marko Jeremic added 13, Uros Lukovic 12 and Taylor Smith 10 plus 5 blocks for the winners, while Derek Needham dished 11 assists. Nikola Ivanovic scored 17 for Buducnost, followed by Fedor Zugic with 14 and Melvin Ejim with 10.
Lukovic dunked twice and blocked a shot before Needham's fastbreak layup put Mornar up 0-6. Danilo Nikolic from deep and Ejim on a drive steadied Buducnost, and Reed's two baskets set up Fedor Zugic's go-ahead jumper at 11-10. Pullen landed Mornar's first triple for another lead change, then Marko Jeremic followed suit before Pullen's fastbreak layup left the visitors leading 17-22 after 10 minutes. The difference didn't last, however, as Ivanovic nailed 2 triples and Suad Sehovic another as Buducnost surged in front, 30-26. Zugic's second-chance triple was answered by Sead Sehovic of Mornar, brother of Suad from Buducnost, but Ejim's putback kept the hosts ahead 35-32. Zugic kept it going from deep at 40-36, but Jeremic tied it on a four-point play and Kenny Gabriel's fastbreak layup put Mornar up 40-42. Justin Cobb tied it before Lukovic dunked and Pullen beat the buzzer for a 42-47 Mornar advantage at halftime. Kenny Gabriel and Pullen sandwiched triples around a pair of Lukovic layups in a 2-10 start to the second half, pumping Mornar's lead up to 44-57. Reed and Zugic re-started Buducnost's offense, and Danilo Nikolic lowered the difference to 50-58. Isaiah Whitehead kept Mornar ahead 52-62, but Zoran Nikolic dunked and Ejim hit free throws for Buducnost to cut it to 58-65 after 30 minutes. Ivanovic scored, stole and fed Ejim to start the fourth quarter by getting Buducnost within 62-65. Whitehead and Ivanovic traded buckets before Pullen scored and fed Milko Bjelica on a fastbreak to make it 64-71. Buducnost would draw within 3 points twice more before Dragan Apic tied it 74-74 on a put-back and free throw combination with 3:22 to play. Pullen's layup, Smith had a steal and a block, and then they combined for a dunk to make it 74-78 in the next-to-last minute. A steal by Needham sent Gabriel loose for a dunk that Smith soon followed with another that settled the matter, sending two Montenegrin teams to the Top 16!
It was all lead changes and ties until Pullen's halfcourt triple to end the second quarter bounced high over the rim and in, leading to a surge out of the locker room for the guests. He saved 9 more points for the last 7 minutes, whenever Buducnost got close or tied, to preserve the victory. He finished with game highs of 20 points and 21 PIR, including 5 assists.
Just 11 seconds after Buducnost tied it 74-74 with 3:22 left, Pullen hit a tough layup. Smith followed with a steal and a block, then Pullen fed him for a dunk. Next, Derek Needham made his third steal to send Kenny Gabriel for a runaway jam entering the final minute with Mornar up 74-80. Buducnost could not recover.
Defense around the rim had everything to do with Mornar winning. Taylor Smith had a club-record 5 blocks himself among Mornar's team record of 9, which included 2 more Uros Lukovic. That total matched the high for any EuroCup team this season.
Mornar also established a club record with 25 two-pointers made out of 42 attempts, for 59.5%. All the blocks meant that Buducnost shot just to 22-for-52 inside the arc, for 42.3%, a big difference in the final result.
After a historic night that saw a second Montenegrin team advance, Mornar and Buducnost will return for the Top 16 starting January 13, 2021. Mornar will be in Top 16 Group H, whose other teams are unclear yet, while Buducnost joins Group G, which already has mighty Virtus Segafredo Bologna in it.
Wednesday, December 16, 2020