Real Madrid became the Group D winner and will enter the ULEB Cup elimination rounds as a top-seeded team by simply overwhelming Dexia Mons-Hainaut 76-96 on the road on Tuesday. Madrid finished the regular season with a 7-3 record and joined a three-way tie with Unics Kazan and Crvena Zvezda top the Group D standings. Tie-break procedures applied and higher cumulative score difference in head-to-head games between all tied teams made the difference. Madrid was first (2-2, +17), Unics second (2-2, +9) and Zvezda third (2-2, -26). Marko Tomas led the winners with 22 points on 5-of-7 three-pointers. Axel Hervelle added 21, Charles Smith 15 and Edu Hernandez-Sonseca 12 for Madrid. Kevin Houston had 21 points for Mons while Yemi Nicholson added 14. Mons stayed in the game early and a layup by Nicholson brought the hosts within 19-22. It didn't last long, as Louis Bullock fired in 3 triples while Smith, Hervelle and Raul Lopez also scored from downtown in a mamooth 2-28 run which sealed the outcome, 21-50, even before halftime. Tomas opened the third quarter with 3 consecutive three-pointer, as Madrid boosted its margin to 33-70 and never looked back.
George Evans got Mons going with a layup, but a Sonseca and Smith gave Madrid a 2-5 lead. Sonseca shined with a dunk, but Nicholson bettered it with a three-point play to tie the game, 5-5. Once again Smith and Sonseca combined for all points in a 0-7 run which forced Mons to call timeout, 5-12. Evans tried to change things with a layup, but Sonseca and Tomas scored twice in transition for a 7-16 Madrid lead. Houston hit free throw and Nicholson scored off a steal, but Sonseca took over with a dunk-plus-foul. Dragan Markovic and Houston hit consecutive triples, but Tomas answered from downtown and Felipe Reyes added a second-chance layup. By the time Lopez beat the buzzer with a big triple, Madrid led 19-28 after 10 minutes. Madrid broke the game early in the second quarter, as Reyes scored inside, Nedzad Sinanovic dunked it while Bullock stroke twice from downtown to make it a 19-point game, 19-38. Mons called timeout, but Smith fired in another triple which capped a mamooth 0-19 run for a 19-41 lead. The hosts went scoreless for 5 minutes until Nicholson got a put-back basket, but Hervelle and Bullock combined for 8 points in another 0-9 run which boosted Madrid's lead to 21-50. Mathias Desaever followed a jumper with a triple, but Smith dunked it, Kerem Tunceri nailed a three-pointer and Hervelle added 6 points for a 33-point Madrid lead, 28-61, at halftime.
Niels Marnegrave and Tomas exchanged three-pointers right after the break. Houston tried to ignit a Mons comeback with a jumper, but a red hot Tomas stroke twice from downtown to make it a 37-point game, 33-70. Marnegrave made free throws, as Mons tried to power the boards nor for second-chance options. Even with that, Hervelle dunked it and a had a big block on Bingo Merriex to keep Madrid focused in defense. He soon added one from downtown, but Desaever, Houston and a three-pointer by Merriex got Mons within 48-78 after three quarters. Madrid opted to rest its main players in the final period, allowing Mons to carry on with its rally. Evans and Merriex scored again but Smith buried Madrid's 14th three-pointer of the night to silence the crowd. Houston stepped up with 10 unanswered points in a 12-0 Mons run which Merriex capped with a layup, but only brought the hosts within 61-82 midway through the final period. Everything was said and done by then, as Madrid entered the elimination rounds as one of the top candidates to win it all, while Dexia Mons finished its first-ever ULEB Cup appearance with the ambition to return next season.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007