Cholet Basket edgeds Lietuvos Rytas 73-69
Cholet Basket recorded its first win of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Regular Season by beating Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius 73-69 in a thriller on Thursday night at La Meilleraie. The win, courtesy of a stellar night by Randall Falker, who scored 11 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, keeps head coach Erman Kunter’s men in the hunt for the Top 16 at 1-2, behind FC Barcelona, Fenerbahce and Montepaschi in Group C. Falkar helped the French champs to an overall 46-31 rebounding edge. Fabien Causeur paced Cholet with 20 points and Vule Avdalovic added 15. Cholet travels to Zagreb to match up against Cibona. Meanwhile the Lithuanian champion remains winless at 0-3 and will have to regroup in time to play at FC Barcelona by next week. Martynas Gecevicus led L. Rytas with 19 points and Kenan Bajramovic added 16.
Energized by its home crowd, Cholet jumped to an early 7-3 lead and aggressively attacked the rim, forcing L. Rytas to commit its sixth foul before the four-minute mark was reached. Still, the visitors were able to get ahead 8-9 with 7 points by Gecevicius, who was stellar with his penetration and mid-range shooting, while his team was able to seal the lane on defense with Cemal Nalga subbing young center Jonas Valanciunas, who had a trouble keeping up with Cholet’s more experienced frontcourt players in only his second Euroleague start. A timeout by Kunter was able to settle Cholet down after falling behind 12-26, and its pressure defense prevented the visitors from getting into a rhythm offensively. Causeur pushed the tempo with Khalid El Amim sitting on the bench for Rytas and the quarter ended with a 16-18 lead for the visitors after a nice driving layup by Causeur had made it 16-16.
L. Rytas seemed to take note of Cholet’s overall quickness and adjusted accordingly to start the second, which gave head coach Aleksandar Trifunovic’s side its biggest lead to that point, thanks to an 8-0 run, which forced Kunter to call another timeout. Consecutive layups by Randal Falker and Causeur got Cholet some momentum after a Gecevicius basket had previously widened the lead to double digits. A three-pointer by Mamadou Diarra and a 2 free throws by Causeur got Cholet back within 25-26. Falker finally put the home team ahead by scoring off an offensive rebound and it seemed to be the recipe for victory for Cholet, as its undersized, but athletic frontcourt kept crashing the offensive glass, totaling seven second chances in the half, three of them by way of Falker. L. Rytas was able to keep close for a while despite struggling against Cholet’s zone defense and going 1 for 9 on triples, but successive three pointers by Sammy Mejia and Causeur gave the hosts their biggest lead, 36-27, after an impressive 20-1 run. Gecevicius kept L. Rytas in the game with a couple of free throws that gave him 13 of his team’s 33 points in the half, and a Milko Bjelica fast break layup and 2 free throws before the half allowed the visitors to cut back some, entering the break quite alive, at 37-33.
Falker kept at it in the second half and quickly got Valanciunas to commit his third foul after picking up his first two in the opening 45 seconds of the game. But the youngster immediately reminded everybody in the building why he is one of the most exciting prospects in the world with an emphatic turnaround baseline dunk that put L. Rytas back in at 39-35. A Mejia triple gave Cholet a double-digit lead for the first time at 45-35, but El-Amin started setting good halfcourt sets for the visitors and hit a triple of his own to make it a 2-point affair once more. With Cholet holding on to the lead thanks to its offensive rebounding prowess, Trifunovic’s crew had no choice but to assert itself in the halfcourt attack, and Valanciunas was able to capitalize on the aggressive home team’s press to tie the game at 49-49 with another dunk off a nice Igor Milosevic assist. The French champions did not let down, however, and looked to attack Valanciunas on the other end, eventually getting him to commit his fourth foul before the closing seconds of the quarter, that ended 53-49 in their favor.
With the youngster sitting on the bench to start the fourth quarter, Bajramovic picked up the slack in the paint for L. Rytas on offense. But defensively Falkner was still a load for Trifunovic’s side, as not even a lost contact lens prevented him from tapping in another rebound to keep Cholet ahead 57-51. Bajramovic was set to make his presence felt and hit a three to minimize the lead, but his back and forth with the player of the night was edging towards Falker, who forced his share of missed chances on L. Rytas fast breaks and again converted a three-point play on a hustling drive to give Cholet a 60-56 cushion. The Lithuanian champs tried to keep it close with Bjelica and Bajramovic combining in the post and 2 free throws by El-Amin tightened the difference to 62-60 with 2:32 to play in the game. He worked the next possession beautifully to set himself up for a breathtaking triple that finally put his team in front, 62-63. But that lasted little, as 2 free throws by Causeur got Cholet back on top and a long three-point bomb by Avdalovic with 50 seconds left seemed to put the nail in the coffin, 67-63. Two free throws by Brad Newley and a missed one by Falker still gave a chance to the visitors, down 3 with 25 seconds left to play in the game, but they could not muster a three-point shot off and were forced to trade trips to the line with Cholet. Avdalovic and Gecevicius were perfect on their chances and Causeur missed his second shot. But, again, Cholet feasted on the rebound as the guard corralled his own miss and fed Avdalovic, who was fouled and iced matters for good, 73-69. A fitting finish to a game that featured the home side’s determination to get a win over L. Rytas’s resilience to remain without one.
Thursday, November 4, 2010