CSKA Moscow emerged as the only undefeated team in Group C on Wednesday by beating Olympiacos at home, 74-67 in a game that started as a defensive struggle and took on more and more action by the quarter. The victory, combined with Asvel's loss at Ulker, puts CSKA atop the group at 3-0 and drops Olympiacos to 1-2. In a game where the points came grudgingly from the start, Darius Songalia got going in the second quarter and led the hosts with 17, including 5 of 5 from the free throw line. Theodoros Papaloukas added 12 and Sergey Monya helped with 10. Olympiacos relied on Christos Harissis for 17 points, while Nenad Markovic added 12 and DeMarco Johnson 10.
The first quarter was marked by strenuous work by both defenses to deny the other team easy shots. Bashimov, the most active guy on the floor early, dunked to put the hosts ahead 6-5, which would turn out to be about the surest of points due to the defensive efforts of both teams. Both teams were harassing the ball, filling passing lanes and forcing mistakes on the other side. Olympiacos was rewarded when Hatzivrettas and Amanatidis forged a 10-10 tie from the free throws line, that after 8 long minutes of trying to reach double digts. And 2 minutes later, the score was still tied, at 12-12. The only players to score for the Greeks were Amanatidis (2), Nenad Markovic (5) and Giorgios Giannouzakos (5), while for the Russians the scoring was led by Hatzivrettas (4) and Bashminov (4). The quarter ended appropriately, with Nikos Boudouris missing a three on the buzzer for Olympiacos. The scoreboard stood at 12-12.
After a short interruption, play continued with neither team wanting to lose sight of the other, though now the baskets came easier and faster. Sergey Monya gave the hosts their first substantial lead at 23-17. Soon Darius Songaila also started making shots, including 5 consecutive points to seize CSKA's first double-digit, 28-18. The reaction of Olympiacos came from the hands of Christos Harissis, shooting from downtown, and Mark Bradtke in the paint. The pulled the Reds back in the game at 28-23. Both teams insisted on launching threes, but between them made only 3 of 15 by the half. Just the same, it was a three by J. R. Holden that gave CSKA another 10-point lead, 34-24, a margin that held as the teams exchanged baskets before going to the locker rooms with 36-26 as the halftime score.
After intermission, Olympiacos needed a to get back in the game, but CSKA was the first one to score again. Both defenses worked hard again. The Greeks saw some light though when Markovic hit for three to cut the deficit to 44-38. However, the fans in Moscow could rely on Songaila, who kept pushing in shots until he had scored 15 after 30 minutes, all in the second and third quarters. A final 0-4 run served, however, to save the guests again, and put as close as they had been in awhile on the scorebard, 50-45, when the quarter ended.
CSKA stepped back on-court for the final quarter determined not to let the win slip through its hands. Songaila led a 6-0 tear in the first minutes to leave the Reds behind, 56-45. However, the game followed its back-and-forth trend saw and thanks to the scoring of Harissis, Olympiacos managed to climb back at 59-55 midway through the period. The crucial play of the game arrived when Songaila was fouled out plus CSKA had to contain the offense of the Reds. The Olympiacos starter from last season, Theodoros Papaloukas, hit 1 of 2 free throws to keep the hosts ahead at 63-57, but Harissis and Markovic kept the Reds within shouting distance. Finally, it was Papaloukas from the free throw line who put CSKA in a safe place, 72-65, with less than 1 minute to go. CSKA would remain undefeated for at least one more week.
Wednesday, October 23, 2002