Skipper Bologna summoned all its considerable experience to pull off a tense 69-75 road win against Ulker in Istanbul on Wednesday in Group E. Gianluca Basile and Lubos Barton split 10 perfect free throws in the final minute to preserve the victory, Skipper's first after two Top 16 road games. Skipper evened its record at 1-1, while Ulker was left to ponder a 0-2 in the Group E standings. Skipper used a 0-9 start to stay in front the entire game and fend off Ulker's rally in the final quarter. Barton led the winners with 21 points. Giacomo Galanda and Mate Skelin added 12 each. Basile played all 40 minutes, but scored 9 of his 11 points in the final 2 minutes. And Carlos Delfino registered 10 points and 10 rebounds. For Ulker, Melvin Booker tossed in 17 points; Joseph Blair had 14 and 11 rebounds while Virginius Praskevicius scored 11 more.
Skipper started with good intensity on both ends of the floor. On offense, Skipper isolated Mate Skelin against Blair, but it was Lubos Barton who authored an early 0-6 lead for the guests thanks to a couple steals and offensive boards. Ulker suffered a bad start, looking very nervous while trying to go to Blair in the low post, but the regular season MVP suffered a couple quick turnovers. Barton couldn't be stopped, however, and popped off a pick for a three-pointer that made the score 0-9. Blair now dunked for Ulker's first basket, and after a steal and layup, scored again to make it 6-9. But Barton was there to stop Ulker's surge with another triple, steal and fastbreak, making it 6-14 and forcing a timeout from the home team. Out of that huddle, Skipper stayed on fire as Giacomo Galanda buried his own three-pointer for 6-17. Virginius Praskevicius and Blair answered for Ulker in a 7-3 run to cut the deficit to 13-20, but Barton was not finished. His third triple of the quarter set the Skipper advantage at 13-23. It took a shot from downtown by Praskevicius to bring Ulker within 9 points, 16-25, after 10 minutes.
Ulker was still suffering rebounding problems in the second quarter, with Galanda allowed to tap in a rebound to make it 16-27. But now Praskevicius continued saving Ulker, with another triple, and now Booker scored on a curl for 21-27. Ulker's defense was tightening noticeable, forcing a second shot-clock violation on Skipper. Soon, after a pair of baskets by Serkan Erdogan, Ulker was back in the game, in not in charge, at 25-29. After a timeout, Skipper put its trust in big man Emilio Kovacic, whose 4 points in the paint kept Ulker at bay by the same amount. Now, Skipper coach Jasmin Repesa tried two towers, Kovacic and Tomas Van Den Spiegel, who made a fine defensive contribution. Kovacic drew three fouls in a little while and made the free throws to make it 29-35. Ulker was suffering poor shooting from the perimeter while Skipper protected the paint and controlled the rebounds. Ulker was struggling, even at the foul line, where Kerem Gonlum missed a pair. Skipper was ahead now 31-38 but made a couple of fastbreak turnovers before Tuktu Acik finished the half with a pair of foul shots for Ulker. After 20 minutes, Skipper was still holding a five-point lead at 33-38.
Erdogan lit up Abdi Ipecki arena with a three-point right after intermission. Ulker still suffered under the rims to get rebounds, but was within a basket of Skipper when Skelin grabbed the 10th offensive rebound for the guests, converting it to a 40-44 lead. Erdogan forced a drive inside and Skipper forced him to turn the ball over. Carlos Delfino scored on the subsequent fastbreak, right before Booker started playing his pick-and-roll. Skipper was well prepared for it, however, and added another basket for a 40-48 advantage. The pace of the action decreased, and both teams suffered mistakes in the paint, but Skipper was able to keep adding to the lead despite Booker and Blair joining forces for Ulker. A triple scored by Galanda and a couple of free throws by Gianmarco Pozzecco finished up the quarter with the guests holding their biggest lead in awhile, 45-55.
With two good defensive plays Ulker made 4-0 run to begin the last quarter and fire up the crowd for a comeback, but Delfino's hit a huge jumper keep the lead at 8 points, 49-57. Ulker got to the line now but Blair and Praskevicius missed 3 of 4 free throws and Skipper stayed ahead 50-57. Erdenay now returned to the court and took advantage of a pick-and-roll play to land a triple. A minute later, he drove for a layup that pulled Ulker within a basket at 55-57. Galanda and Barton hit free throws to keep Skipper out front, 57-61, with 3 minutes left. Booker scored driving inside, then Gianluca Basile missed a lay up for Ulker, giving Ulker a chance to tie: Instead, Skipper's defense forced a shot clock violation. Skelin then hit a free throw for 59-62, and after Miljan Goljovic hit a layup for Ulker, Basile let go of an incredible triple to make it 61-65. Booker's free throws set the scoreboard at 63-65 with 1 minute left. Ulker fouled Basile, who showed why he is the captain of Fortitudo by making both free throws with 43 seconds to go. Blair dunked to keep Ulker close at 65-67, then it was Barton's turn at the line. With 32 seconds left, he made 2 free throws, as did Goljovic for Ulker. Basile, with 17 seconds left and, after a Booker layup, with 11 seconds left again, hit all 4 of his chances. Ulker had one chance left, but Erdenay missed the triple, Barton grabbed the rebound and made the final two free throws so Skipper could celebrate its first Top 16 victory, 69-75.
Wednesday, March 5, 2003