Zadar picked up a 94-71 home victory over Gravelines
Zadar of Croatia struck the first big blow for underdogs on Tuesday as it buried higher-seeded Gravelines 94-71 in the first leg of their two-game series in the ULEB Cup eighthfinals. Zadar will travel to northern France next week with 23 points to defend. The win was built thanks to a great performance of newly-signed guard Damir Tvrdic, who nailed 17 points coming off the bench, all at key moments of the second and last periods. His first burst of points helped establish a comfortable lead, and his late one pushed it into blowout territory. Zadar had a good team performance, with other 4 players scoring double digits: Mladen Erjavec with 15, Branimir Longin and Marko Popovic with 14 each, and Michael Meeks with 11. Gravelines suffered bad three-point shooting (7 for 25, 28%) even though Danny Strong topped all scorers with 21 points. Igor Perica inked 18 points and 13 rebounds for a double-double, while Frankie King and Geoff Lear added 10 each.
The teams stayed close in the first half as Zadar tried to get away in the first quarter, but Gravelines relied on Perica and his 11 points to stay close. Erjavec was the main offensive option for Zadar in the first period, but Gravelines was balanced enough on the offensive end to lead 17-18. Zadar took slim leads after that and held one of 2 points, 27-25 when the first period ended . Zadar would try to escape again in the second period too as Perica stopped scoring, and Danny Strong became the main option for the guests. Zadar lined up Tvrdic then, and he didn't waste time in pleasing his new fans. His first 5 points in succession Tvrdic launched the Croatian hosts on a 12-2 run to a 39-32 lead, the first of that size. Zadar was outshooting Gravelines 54% to 41% already. Forward Kordian Korytek stopped the bleeding with a lay up for Gravelines, but Zadar then found 7 points with Tvrdic once again scoring, while a triple at the buzzer rolled off the hands of Popovic. That late flurry gave the hosts 11 points to defend in the second half from a scoreboard that read 47-36 at intermission.
Gravelines scored the first basket of the third quarter, but 5 points scored by forward Michael Meeks clearly said showed that Zadar wasnt't finished quite yet. There was going to be more noise in the second half. Meeks, Erjavec and then Marko Samanic took turns sinking key baskets to deepen the lead, which reached 17 points in the last minute of the third quarter on a jumper by Samanic. Ali Bouziane missed a last three-point attempt at the buzzer for Gravelines, but guests made 4-0 mini-run at the beginning of the last period thanks to Geoff Lear. Gravelines reduced the gap to 13 points (74-61), and tried to get back into the game. But Zadar called up Tvrdic once again, and he now nailed 8 key points, punctuated by a pair of consecutive triples, that made the difference in a lead that climbed to 88-66. Gravelines was reeling, and a couple baskets didn't reduce the gap, which became 23 points at the buzzer with Erjavec's jumper.
Tuesday, February 4, 2003