A perennial ULEB Cup power put its season back on the right track when Hemofarm Vrsac stormed to a 73-93 road win at AEK Athens on Tuesday in Group A. The victory was Hemofarm's first and raised its record to 1-2, the same as AEK, both of them together with Brose Baskets Bamberg in the second half of the group table. After Hemofarm had already led by 11 at the half, a 10-21 third quarter in the visitors' favor sealed the deal and sent the two-time ULEB Cup semifinalists back to Serbia with their first victory of this season. Milenko Topic led five Hemofarm double figure scorers with 17 points off the bench. Velimir Radinovic and Predrag Suput tallied 15 each, Nebojsa Joksimovic 13 and Stefan Markovic 10. Hemofarm shot a scathing 12-for-19 from downtown, while AEK hit only 7 of 25 triples. For the hosts, Nikolaos Vetoulas had 15 points, Ioannis Gkagkaloudis 12 and Prodromos Nikolaidis 10.
Hemofarm entered the court determined to get the monkey off its back and grab its first win. Radinovic put back an offensive rebound and Suput scored twice on uncontested drives to get their team ahead 0-6. AEK was ice cold from the perimeter, as neither Gkagkaloudis nor Nestoras Kommatos were able to hit the outside shot. When Radinovic finished a fastbreak, AEK coach Vangelis Alexandris called time out to regroup its forces. Finally, Kommatos and Nikolaidis get the hosts going and sliced the margin to 4-8, but Hemofarm answered back immediately. Radinovic scored again in the paint and then three-pointers by Suput and Milos Markovic boosted the margin to 6-19 after 6 minutes. Nikos Vetoulas came off the bench and regenerated AEK with back-to-back triples to make it 13-21. Brent Scott added a layup, yet Stefan Markovic bettered him with Hemofarm’s fourth triple. A three-point play by Kommatos was not enough to shift the momentum, as Topic arrived to make it 22-28 after 10 minutes. The second quarter commenced with Topic loading his gun and firing a couple of shots beyond the arc to extend the lead to 24-34. Radinovic then became the dominant force inside with 4 points that kept Hemofarm firmly in charge despite a triple by Nikolaidis. Joksimovic was next to strike from downtown to make it 30-43 after 16 minutes of play. AEK switched to a zone defense, but the guests punished that with great passing leading to an open three-pointer by Markovic. Vetoulas from the arc and Spyros Magkounis inside sparked an 8-2 AEK response to which Gkagkaloudis added a driving layup to pull AEK within 40-49. But Joksimovic frustrated the crowd with a long jumper and kept Hemofarm on the driver’s seat, 43-54 at intermission.
Looking to rally from defense, AEK managed to hold Hemofarm scoreless for 2 minutes 40 seconds after the break, until Joksimovic scored on a drive, but the hosts were also in trouble offensively, and didn't score for almost 4 minutes. Vetoulas ended the draught with four points but he could not extend the surge, as he turned the ball over and on the other end Rakic nailed a three-pointer to boost the margin to 47-60 midway through the quarter. Rakic and Kommatos exchanged jumpers with Hemofarm controlling the tempo of the game and AEK being unable to claw its way back even though the crowd never stopped bolstering their team. Suput and Rakic upped the ante with consecutive free-throws and as AEK was struggling against Hemofarm’s defense, the guests blasted off on a 2-13 run that was capped by yet another triple by Topic. Perkovic hit an open jumper to make it 53-75 with one period to go, yet it was quite evident that it was only a matter of time before Hemofarm celebrated its first victory. Early on in the fourth period, Joksimovic was the commander on the court, pushing and dishing the ball, whereas Topic and Suput remained on fire and kept gunning without conscience from downtown as Hemofarm built a 55-80 lead. With the guests enjoying a whopping 12-out of-18 shots beyond the arc, AEK did bow behind their opponents’ dominance and watched them cruise to a valuable away victory, 73-93.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006