Once again on Tuesday in Group C, RheinEnergie Cologne showed that it has what it takes in the closing minutes as it squeaked out an important 84-80 home win over visiting Generali Group Trieste. A big rebounding advantage and the intangible of experience helped RheinEnergie overcome a deficit of 6 points with 5 minutes to go. Then, with a key 10-2 run in the last 3 minutes, the hosts were up to 5-1 and looking almost surely at advancement to the next round. Veteran guard Sasa Obradovic, who sank 2 three-pointers to spark the comeback, led the winners with 18 points. Stephen Arigbabu added 12 for RheinEnergie, as did Zoran Kukic, who put his team ahead for good with a triple. Drazan Tomic added 10 and Geert Hammink's 9 points were decisive, too. Trieste had huge game by Nate Erdmann, who was top scorer with 23, but he was alone on the perimeter. Centers Sinisa Kelecevic and Roberto Casoli combined for 28 points, 17 and 11 respectively, but the Italian team's record nonetheless dropped to 2-4.
Trieste went to Cologne to take revenge for its home loss back in opening week, and started with Erdmann nailing jumpers to a 1-6 lead. RheinEnergie started the game a little bit confused, and paid with a couple turnovers. Trieste went on scoring with Terrance Roberson, but after rotations from the bench began, Cologne was able to take back its first lead of the game, 13-12. Erdmann was the go-to guy for the guests, who took advantage of his good shooting (14 points on 5-for-7 accuracy) to earn solid lead after the first quarter, 18-23. RheinEnergie came back in the second period thanks to full speed basketball off the defensive reboud (18-11 was Germans' first-half rebounding lead). Those rebounds allowed Obradovic to light up his team with 12 points by halftime. Together with Tomic and Clint Harrison, Cologne came back and took small leads throughout the second period, scoring 30 points in 10 minutes. Obradovic was benched due to having collected three fouls and Trieste resisted, with center Roberto Casoli scored a couple baskets and guard Ivica Maric contributing, to tie up the score 48-48 at the half.
The game stayed tight throughout the second half, with teams sharing small leads. Cologne went up 60-57 late in the third quarter as Arigbabu made his presence felt inside. Again, however ,Trieste tied the score at the buzzer with Casoli scoring to make it 62-62 after 30 minutes. Erdmann and Kelecevic tried to fire a big run to begin the last period. Cologne scored just one free throw in the first 3 minutes, 30 seconds while an Erdmann triple put Trieste up 63-68. Another Erdmann three made it 65-71, a margin sustained by a Kelecevic triple at 70-74. But as time was running down, Cologne went to its experience. Obradovic hit the first three, Tomic hit an important lay up, while Kukic, exploiting a key turnover of Trieste, scored the three that took back the lead, 78-76, for the hosts. Hammink grabbed a rebound at one end and scored on the other to complete a 10-2 run for an 80-76 advantage. Erdmann did not surrender, scoring a huge jumper that kept the guests in the game. But Trieste was clearly running out of energy in the last 2 minutes, and hosts took advantage of foul opportunities with 3 points from the line. Kelecevic hit a jumper to cut the defecit to 83-80 for Trieste, but when Erdmann missed the tying three-point attempt, the game was sliding to Cologne's side.
Tuesday, December 3, 2002