Ulker Istanbul put on an amazing defensive show in the Italian capital on Wednesday to come up with a 53-69 road win over Lottomatica Roma that might yet prove a fateful result for both teams in the Group A race for the Top 16. Ulker has reached a 6-5 record, good for a share of third place in the group table with Partizan. It also now enjoys a 2-0 in the head-to head, in case of future ties, with Lottomatica, who with a 4-7 record stands on the brink of the elimination. Ulker raised its winning streak to three games with big help from Melvin Booker, who led the Turkish scorers by drilling 13 of his 21 points in the first half. Ibrahim Kutluay added 19 points on 4 of 8 three-pointers while Petar Naumoski drilled 11 and Joseph Blair flirted with the double-double scoring 9 points and pulling down 12 boards. Lottomatica made just 6 of 30 three-point shots and placed just one player in double figures, Lubos Barton, who tallied 13 points, while Marko Tusek and Cory Alexander added 9 apiece.
The two teams missed the first six shots they took, until Booker finally scored the game's first basket in the open court after 3 minutes. He then doubled the score for Ulker to 0-4, but finally Griffith chipped in the first points for Lottomatica. Alessandro Tonolli scored a pair from the foul line for a 4-4 score, already midway the quarter, before Myers put Lottomatica ahead for the first time on a mid-range jumper. Booker was the more consistent player in the first 10 minutes, however, and his drive to the basket got Ulker a 6-10 edge. Then he stole and hit 2 free throws for an 8-12 cushion. Bad news continued for Lottomatica as Griffith commited his third foul, giving Booker 2 more free throws and Ulker an 8-14 lead after 10 minutes. Lottomatica went 0 of 9 on three-pointers and had 4 turnovers in the quarter.
A Blair assist to Petar Naumoski gave Ulker a 10-18 push early in the second quarter, but Doremus Bennerman drilled a basket form downtown to awaken Lottomatica. Percentages remained poor for both teams until Ibrahim Kutluay and Naumoski caught fire for Ulker, scoring 7 straight points to raise the margin into double digits at 15-25 at almost the 15-minute mark. After 2 scoreless minutes, Davide Bonora bagged another triple so Lottomatica could climb within 18-25. After Lottomatica suffered a 24-second violation, Marko Tusek copied Bonora with an open triple that reduced the margin to 22-25. Booker, the best scorer in the first half with 13 points, tallied his first three-pointer on 4 attempts on the first-half buzzer to increase Ulker's edge to 22-28.
Lottomatica had a different attitude coming back on the court after the break. A three-pointer by Lubos Barton, a block and 2 free throws by Tusek, a steal and layup by Cory Alexander fired up the fans as Lottomatica quickly re-took a 29-28 lead. The lead would change five times after that before Ulker regained control with a three-pointer off the hand of Kutluay, good for a 33-37 visitors' lead. Soon, after a Lottomatica 24-second violation, Booker sank a mid-range jumper to make it 37-43. Then Blair blocked a dunk attempt by Cal Bowdler before Efthimios Rentzias nailed another triple on the third-quarter buzzer to put his team close to a double digit cushion, 37-46, after 30 minutes.
Myers scored 3 free throws to cut the deficit early in the last quarter, but Kutluay coming off a pick answered with his favorite shot, from way downtown, and the Ulker resistence was on. The game became hot as Barton landed a shot from downtown for 43-49 after 32 minutes. Barton and Kutluay scored back-to-back triples and Naumoski drew the fourth foul of Myers to go with a pair of free throws, after which Ulker held a 46-56 advantage. When Blair blocked Griffith and then scored an easy layup, assisted by Booker, and the additional free throw, Ulker had its largest lead, 46-59. Kutluay added to that with a driving basket, and then Ulker aligned a zone defense to break the pace of Lottomatica. When the Italians missed back-to-back triples, the hopes for a victory, and perhaps those of Lottomatica's Top 16 chances, disappeared in the Roman night.
Wednesday, January 28, 2004