Just when it seemed Group D could not get more complicated, Oostende upset visiting AEK of Greece 102-73 Wednesday in a shocker that left the home crowd dancing in the aisles. The loss complicates things for AEK (7-5), which now joins three-way tie for second-place. Two more teams are just one victory behind them, but only three Top 16 berths are available between those five. Oostende (2-10) had everything go right for 40 minutes. The Belgians entered the game with nothing to lose and looked more relaxed than the Greeks, and it showed on the court. With the extra motivation of ruining J.R. Holden's first homecoming since leaving the team at the end of last season, Oostende's offense was amazingly efficient against one of Europe's best defenses. Virginius Praskevicius led the charge with 25 points and 10 rebounds. He made 6 of 7 two-pointers, 3 of 3 threes and 4 of 5 free throws. Andrius Giedraitis was next, hitting 4 of 5 twos, 2 of 2 threes and 8 of 8 foul shots for 22 points. Ralph Biggs was 10-for-10 from the line and 4-for-5 from the field for 18 points, and Ed Cota put up 16 points (14 in the second half) and 8 assists. Oostende put up a 10-point halftime lead and blew the game open with a 32-17 third quarter led by Cota, who along with Gerrit Major limited Holden to 5 points for the whole game. Demos Dikoudis and Mikalis Kakiouzis scored 20 each for AEK and Betts 10.
The game was even until halfway through the first quarter, when Oostende, led by Giedraitis, broke away to an 18-13 lead. The Lithuanian sharpshooter would end up scoring 11 points without a miss during the quarter, hitting 4 two-pointers and his only attempt from behind the arc, too. All of which was good for a 24-19 Oostende lead after 10 minutes, which allowed the local team and its fans to start thinking big.
The second quarter was more of the same, as Praskevicius got going now, leading a 10-3 run that boosted the lead to 34-22. AEK's frustrations began to mount as the lead hit 40-25 on a bench technical foul. Newly-signed scorer Chris Carr dropped his first three-pointer for AEK before the half, but still Oostende went into the lockers ahead 45-36. Most of that damage had come from three players: Praskevicius, who had 16 points and 8 rebounds by the half, Ralph Biggs with 12 and Giedraitis, stil with 11. Oostende had hit 18 of 19 free throws as a team.
Oostende continued to improve its lead after the break, as a couple fastbreaks and another bench technical against AEK saw the lead soar to 57-41. Oostende center Peter Van Paasen then fouled out and Biggs picked up his fourth, wherupon little used Bob Memena came on and pulled seven rebounds against the feared AEK frontline. That ate enough time to allow point guard Ed Cota to get hot, and by the time he finished the quarter with 10 points and 4 assists, the Oostende lead was 81-56. Silent by now and not getting off the bench was Holden, who would finish with 5 points in 22 minutes.
Wednesday, January 30, 2002