CSKA took its second Euroleague win in as many tries and its first before the home fans in Moscow on Wednesday by suffocating Partizan Belgrade by a comfortable 93-57 margin. Apart from the first quarter, during which both teams playing nervous, the Russian team dominated the remaining 30 minutes. The experience of starting point guard J. R. Holden and power forward Chris Gatling, the top scorers of their team, pushed the hosts to forge a huge lead and play at ease most of the second half. Gatling was the main scorer for CSKA with 19 points, Holden added 16 and Nikos Hatzivrettas 13. But it was CSKA's defense, allowing only 34 points through the first three quarters, that decided this one. To be sure, Partizan had bad luck shooting, as well, making just 1 of 18 three-pointers on the night, and that in the closing minutes. That shot made Blagota Sekulic his team's scoring leader with 13 points while Dusan Kecman added 11. With the win, CSKA climbs atop Group C with 2-0, while Partizan remains winless at 0-2.
Defense was the name of the game from the start, as pressure on the ball from both sides led to a first quarter full of turnovers, missed shots and generally fruitless offense. As a matter of fact, shooting imprecision was the main feature of the first 10 minutes, as only a three-pointer by Hatzivrettas broke, at five, the string of missed shots from behind the arc for both sides. A total of 27 points at quarter's end confirmed the bad shooting of both teams. Partizan head coach Dusan Vujosevic changed starting point guard Milos Vujanic, who came into the game with physical problems, for Vule Avdalovic, but it did not help matters for the Yugoslavs. Logically enough, playing at home, CSKA took advantage of the situation by pulling away to a 17-10 lead that certainly looked formidable considering how infrequently the ball was going through the net.
In the second quarter, CSKA improved its backcourt shooting while the youngsters of Partizan kept on missing. The visitors would arrive at the break 0-for-12 on threes, the kind of shooting that would keep any team from winning on the road in the Euroleague. When poor efficiency from the free throw line - 7 of 12 - was added, the guests could actually feel a bit relieved to be only 14 points down in the score at halftime, 35-21. The experience of Gatling, the versatility of Darius Songalia and the accuracy of Hatzivrettas, who drilled aanother three in the last seconds of the quarter, were the keys for the margin for the Russian team.
In the third period, CSKA managed to consolidate its game definitively between a defense that allowed Partizan nothing and some fine shooting, including a trio of three-pointers by Holden. Even Gatling sank one from downtown. Partizan's youngsters improved slightly, but surely not enough, as after the 10 points in the first quarter and 11 in the second, in the third quarter, the guests only reached the 13 points. Therefore, the gap in the score kept on increasing minute after minute until 65-34 at the finish on a triple by Victor Khryapa.
With such a wide gap, the last quarter was a formality. Both coaches took the chance to give some minutes to the young players. The bench players of CSKA were better again, and with 2 minutes to go, they increased the lead of their team to 44 points, at 93-49. At the end, Partizan managed to cut it down a little to 36 points, 93-57, while Blagota Sekulic, Partizan power forward, saved the honor of the Yugoslav school sharp shooters by nailing the three that made it 1 of 18 for the guests, while the hosts had hit 10 of 22.
Wednesday, October 16, 2002