Real Madrid got closer to make it to the ULEB Cup quarterfinals by beating Alba 65-74 in front of an excited sellout crowd at Max Schmeling Halle in Berlin, Germany on Wednesday. As such, Madrid gets a nine-point lead in the two-way series, which now travel to the Spanish capital for the second and decisive leg in Palacio Vistalegre. Louis Bullock led the winners with 13 points and 6 assists. Raul Lopez added 12 points while Axel Hervelle and Marko Milic each had 11 for Madrid, which led all game, often by double digits. Chris Owens had 21 points and 8 rebounds for Alba. Julius Jenkins added 14 points while Will Avery had 10 for the hosts, who trailed all the way since the opening basket. Lopez and an outstanding Bullock allowed Madrid to get a 43-55 lead late in the third quarter. Avery and Owens fueled an Alba comeback that got the hosts as close as 64-68 with 2 minutes to go, before Lopez and Hervelle combined for 6 points in the final minue to give Madrid an important lead in the series.
Avery and Hervelle started the scoring for their respective teams before Bullock sent a message with 6 points in a row that made it 5-9 for Madrid. Koko Archibong and Sharrod Ford answered inside to make it 8-9, but then Alba's offense started to struggle against Madrid's impressive defense. The hosts would score nothing but a layup by Ford during the last 5 minutes of the first quarter. In the meantime, Hervelle, Milic and Blagota Sekulic found easy baskets and Charles Smith crowned Madrid's great first quarter with a triple good for a 10-20 lead. Eduardo Hernandez-Sonseca added a basket for Madrid to open the second quarter, before Nicolai Simon finished Alba's drought with his midrange jumper. Avery and Nenad Canak joined him, and with Alba's defense now in ommand, it was Madrid missing shots. Julius Jenkins buried 2 consecutive triples that brought Alba as close as 22-24. As the defenses turned even more physical game, there were no more easy baskets to be had on either end of the court, but Alba suffered from Madrid's incredible 15 offensive rebounds in the first half, which were enough for the guests to reestablish their double-digit advantage, 26-36 at the break.
Alba came out of intermission with improved effectiveness on the boards and 7 quick points between Jenkins and Owens. Even though Owens remained strong inside, hitting more baskets, Madrid now used fastbreaks and triples by Lopez and Bullock to sustain a big lead, 37-48. Canak hit a rare triple for Alba, but Felipe Reyes, Smith and Lopez with a triple made it 43-55 again. Owens, Ruben Boumtje Boumntje and Jenkins with a fastbreak helped Alba close within 49-57 at the end of three quarters. In the last one, Madrid continued to play cat-and-mouse: Kerem Tunceri hit his first three-pointer to make it 49-62 before Jenkins and Archibong buried their own to get Alba within 5 points, 57-62. Hernandez-Sonseca and Reyes worked inside now to push the difference to 59-68 again. Owens got hot then with 7 consecutive points, including his first triple, for a 64-68 score with less than 2 minutes left. With point difference being the objective more than ever, Lopez hit 4 free throws and passed to Hervelle for a buzzer-beating layup that expanded the Madrid margin to 65-74 at the finish.
Wednesday, January 31, 2007