With a 79-70 home win in Istanbul on Thursday in Group C, Ulker practically shut the door on Idea Slask Wroclaw's clearest hopes of getting into the Top 16. Leading from the first quarter onward, Ulker kept Idea at a safe distance throughout with killer three-point shooting. Five Ulker players reach double digits led by MVP candidate Joseph Blair with 19 points. Miljan Goljovic and Melvin Booker put up 15 points each, Serkan Erdogan 12 (on 4 three-pointers) and Harun Erdenay 10. Ulker made 11 of 24 three-pointers, or 46%, on the night. The victory lifted Ulker to 9-4 and kept alive its chances of heading a Top 16 group as the best second-place team in the Euroleague. Slask, meanwhile, fell to 5-8 and must hope for others to lose, too, if it is to make the Top 16 now. Sean Colson led Slask with 24 points and Dominik Tomczyk added 14, but the Polish team's top scorer, Andrius Giedraitis, was held to 4 all night.
Three-pointers marked the pace right away as Virginius Praskevicius and Erdenay hit a pair for Ulker and Colson his own for Idea Slask in the first 2 minutes. A pair of Giedraitis free throws and Tomczyk's first basket gave Slask a 9-9 tie after 4 minutes. Colson then put the visitors ahead on a jumper, but at the other end, he fouled Booker as he made a shot. Ulker's point guard canned the free throw, too, for a 12-11 lead. Soon, a steal by Praskevicius was turned into another three-pointer by Erdenay. Ulker was up 17-11 and threatening to run away. But now Colson drew Blair's second foul, and put in a couple free throws of his own. Blair returned the favor, drawing Acie Earl's second foul and making both free throws. Erdenay followed with a layup and the lead was at 21-13. By that time Booker was also up to two fouls, but right after the second one he popped his first three-pointer to boost Ulker's lead to 24-14 after 10 minutes.
The second quarter started much like the first, as Erdogan and Dainius Adomaitis traded triples and Ulker's lead stood at 27-19 after 14 minutes. The starting centers, Blair and Aleksandar Koul, returned now and the latter dunked to trim the lead to 27-21 halfway through the quarter. Ulker asked for a timeout to discuss its lack of scoring, limited to 3 points over 5 minutes. Coming out of that break, Miljan Goljovic broke the drought for Ulker with another triple, but that came between 5 points by Tomcyzk, so the score was now 30-26. The Idea Slask's defense wasn't letting the ball get to Blair and practically challenged Ulker's shooters to make threes. So Erdogan hit his second, and after a minute or more passed, Goljovic did the same, pushing the lead back near its high at 36-26. Slask's leading scorer, Giedraitis, finally got a couple points, but Blair more than covered them with 2 baskets of his own - Ulker's first from inside the arc all quarter - and the hosts pulled into halftime in control at 40-28.
The defenses were locked on tight early in the second half, but Earl for Slask and Tutku Acik for Ulker each made their first baskets, the latter's coming with a foul shot that he made for a 43-28 Ulker advantage, the highest of the game. Slask needed a boost now, and got it on inside baskets from Earl and Colson, the first consecutive ones in awhile for the visitors. Colson's came with a free throw that he made to cut the lead to 43-33. Blair and Erdogan answered for Ulker from inside and outside the arc, but Colson was still busy scoring, once on a drive and twice at the line and finally on a jumper, to make it 45-37. But by then, Ulker's big guns were putting their stamps on the matter, with Booker, Blair and Erdenay all chipping in points to rocket the lead back up, to another high of 57-41. Slask fought back offensively, but could not stop Ulker from scoring, and when Goljovic surfaced for a quarter-ending three-pointer, the home team was solidly ahead, 64-48, with just 10 minutes left to play.
Consecutive three-pointers by Tomczyk and Adomaitis gave Idea a jump start in the fourth quarter, to within 10 points at 64-54, but again Ulker refused to stop its own scoring. Erdogan stepped up with his fourth three-pointer of the night, and Blair kept churning inside. No matter how hard Idea knocked, Ulker wouldn't let that lead crumble. Those 10 points were as close as Idea could get in the late going, when a Colson layup again cut it to 73-63, but Booker and Goljovic scored the next baskets, and that was all for Slask on this night. Whether it was all for Slask in its try for the Top 16 will not be certain until next week, however.
Wednesday, February 5, 2003