Ural Great is no longer untouchable at home in Perm, Russia. Partizan Belgrade opened the 2002 part of the Euroleague regular season Wednesday with a record-breaking 100-111 comeback road victory that set a new Euroleague mark for combined points in a single game, 211. Partizan's upset could change the look of Group D. The two teams are now tied at 6-4, which will be good for either second or third place, depending on other results. Twin scoring explosions by the two players who have steadied Partizan all season proved fatal to Ural despite the support of its 7,500 fans. Center Jovo Stanojevic put up 23 points in the first half to keep Partizan within eight. But he was outdone after the break by his teammate on the wing, Vlado Scepanovic, who poured in an incredible 31 points in the second half, for a total of 40 on the game, as Partizan stunned their hosts.
Scepanovic made 7 of 9 three-pointers, all but one of them in the second half, plus all 13 free throws he attempted. Both his scoring total and three-pointers made were the top individual performances in each category in the Euroleague this season. Partizan as a team drained 12 of 20 three-pointers, or 60%. Stanojevic, whose 10-for-11 first-half shooting surely drew in the Ural defense for Scepanovic, finished with 32 points. Their amazing scoring overshadowed the efforts of Ural stars Ruslan Avleev and Valeri Daineko, who tallied 27 points each. The Russian champions had not lost at all in Perm since November 2, 2000.
Partizan started out the game playing well in offense, mainly Stanojevic, whose 23 first-half points drove his rivals and their head coach, Sergei Belov, to distraction. But to beat Ural Great at home, a team also needs a strong defense, and Partizan didn't have that the first 20 minutes. Daineko and Avleev were simply unstoppable and young center Nenad Krstic of Partizan had already three fouls in the first quarter. Partizan's coach, Dejan Vujosevic, didn't know how to fill in the holes under the rim or the outer positions. As the half progressed the Russians hardly missed their open shots.
Partizan was ahead 17-22 midway through the first quarter, but an 11-2 run allowed the home team to overcome the deficit for a 28-24 lead at the end of the first period. In the second quarter Ural lifted that lead over 10 points twice, 47-36 with a three by Daineko and 50-40 after a basket by Avleev. But Partizan didn't give up, mainly thanks to Stanojevic, and the halftime score of 54-46 allowed the Yugoslav players to retain a little hope.
The second half began with two straight threes on Partizan's side by Scepanovic and a bonus free throw, clear signs that Partizan had every intention of winning. That was just the beginning of a nightmare 20 minutes for the hosts. Scepanovic lifted up for one great shot after another, finishing the third quarter alone with 20 points. Still, Ural Great was alive at the end of this period, 81-82. The game was broke open with five consecutive three-pointers in the early fourth quarter - two each by Scepanovic and Milos Vujanic, one by Aleksandar Glintic. By the time Veselin Petrovic added a fastbreak layup, Partizan was ahead 85-99 and the air was out of Ural's balloon. Group D was getting as tight as ever with only four games left in the regular season.
Wednesday, January 9, 2002