AEK Athens took a huge step towards making the Top 16 from Group B by registering a 69-73 road win over Adecco Asvel in Villeurbanne, France on Thursday. AEK improved to 6-5 in the standings and a tie for third place, while Asvel dropped to 2-9. Toby Bailey led the winners with 15 points. Sandro Nicevic added 13 points while Nikos Zizis put up 12 points, 9 assists and a buzzer-beating three-point shot from midcourt at the end of the third period. Huseyin Besok led Asvel with 22 points on 11-for-17 shooting and 7 rebounds, while Terrell Lyday added 12 points, going 3-for-3 from downtown, but missing all 8 of his two-point attemtps. It all came down to the final seconds, in which Tomislav Ruzic's hook shot went in and out with a 67-69 score, while Bailey and Nikos Hatzis calmly made free throws in the final 14 seconds to seal AEK's win.
Ruzic opened fire with a five-meter jumper that Bailey matched in the other end. The scoring pace was high in the early going despite aggressive defense on both ends, as Bailey drilled a long jumper and Zisis followed it with an easy layup for the first AEK lead, 4-6. Danny Miller fired in a big three for Asvel, which Besok followed with a turnaround jumper to put the hosts back in charge, 9-7. AEK found a way to beat Asvel's strong man-to-man defense by looking for its big men near the basket. Andreas Glyniakadis worked for 2 baskets in the low post and Lollis added free throws to give AEK a 12-15 lead. Asvel was able to come back and tied on 2 baskets by Besok and a triple from Makan Dioumassi, but Lollis helped AEK keep a 19-21 edge after 10 minutes.
Nicevic, opened the second quarter with a jump shot, but AEK also committed several turnovers. Meanwhile, Herve Toure followed Besok's layup with a corner three to make Asvel regain the lead, and soon Anthony Pelle scored twice, including a running jumper, for a 28-25 home margin. AEK improved once they switched to a 2-3 zone defense. It worked enough to forge a 0-6 run that featured a jumper by Nicevic and a layup by Spyros Magkounis, good for 28-31 AEK edge. Besok returned to the floor off an Asvel timeout and made things change. He fired in two jumpers for a 33-31 Asvel lead that didn't last long. Pero Antic found a difficult basket-plus-foul, while Magkounis added a follow-up layup to give AEK a 35-38 margin at halftime.
Bailey woke everyone up with a power put-back dunk soon after the break, but AEK also saw Glyniadakis foul out. Lyday fired in his second three-pointer and Besok scored twice in the low post to keep Asvel in the game at 42-42 as both teams exchanged now baskets at full speed. Miller stepped up with a three-pointer for a 45-44 Asvel edge, but AEK did not surrender. Zisis drove for an easy layup and Magkounis reversed his own as Asvel struggled to score. Besok came to the rescue with a long two-pointer and a jump hook before returning to the bench with his third foul. AEK took advantage as Magkounis made a fastbreak layup and Nicevic a short jumper for a 49-52 lead. A power drive by Bailey and a big three by Zisis from midcourt extended the AEK lead to 52-57 after 30 minutes
Both teams struggled to score early in the fourth quarter but yet another mid-range jumper by Nicevic allowed AEK to keep a 56-60 edge with 7 minutes to go. Asvel needed a quick reaction now. Ruzic took over with a mid-range jumper, forcing the guests to call timeout at 58-60. Pelle's put-back hook tied the game at 60-60, but free throws by Pero Antic and a six-meter jumper by the ever-present Nicevic gave AEK some fresh air at 60-64. Asvel called timeout and despite missing 4 consecutive shots, Lyday drew a foul and drilled free throws to make it a two-point game, 62-64, with under 3 minutes remaining. Zizis and Besok echanged baskets, before Antic fed Bailey for an easy basket than turned into a three-point play, allowing AEK to enter the final minute leading 64-69. Lyday kept Asvel alive with a three-point shot, but Ruzic missed a game-tying attempted while Bailey and Nikos Hatzis sealed the win with 4 of 4 free throws in the final 14 seconds.
Thursday, January 20, 2005