After knocking at it for weeks, AEK Athens broke down the door to its second Group A victory with a 95-92 decision over dangerous Partizan Mobtel at home in Athens on Thursday. Christos Tapoutos came up with the big plays down the stretch to let AEK pull its record up to 2-5 at the midway break in the regular season, while Partizan still clings to second place at 4-3. Horace Jenkins led the winners with 21 points, while Nikos Hatzis added 15, Tapoutos 14, Quadre Lollis 13 and Penteleimon Papaioakeim 11 for the winners. Partizan also put five scorers in double figures, led by Djuro Ostojic with 18 points. Gerald Brown posed 17 more, Frederick House 15, Vule Avdalovic 13 and Dusan Kecman 12.
AEK started furiously as Jenkins scored the first 5 points and Tapoutos sank a three-pointer for an 8-2 lead in the third minute. Ostojic gave the big answers for Partizan, scoring 6 points in 5 minutes of a very aggressive game, with tight defence from both teams. With Tapoutos playing cleverly on offence, AEK maintained a 14-8 advantage through 6 minutes, as Jenkins already had 2 assists and 3 steals. Lollis soon made his first basket for AEK's biggest lead yet, however baskets from Nenad Krstic and Frederick House and a zone-press defense called by coach Dusan Vujosevic helped Partizan cut the difference to 21-18. The first period finished 26-21 with Panteleimon Papaioakeim scoring AEK's last 7 points.
Lollis pushed the AEK lead to 7 with the first basket of the second period and Nikos Hatzis added 4 consecutive points from the free throw line for 32-23. AEK coach Fotis Katsikaris decided to press then and Partizan struggled to overcome the pressure at first. Soon Blagota Sekulic made a second basket against his old team to put AEK up 38-30. Ostojic reached 10 points for Partizan already, but Hatzis was on fire and with a three-point shot made it 41-32. Three AEK turnovers in 5 minutes while Jenkins rested helped Partizan cut the lead with a 0-6 run to 41-38. But the last word of the half belonged to AEK. Hatzis scored again for 11 points without a miss, Jenkins made a basket and 2 free throws, while Tapoutos scored another pair from the line. Finally, Jenkins stole the ball and passed to Sotiris Nikolaidis, who completed a fantastic 10-0 run for AEK to a 51-38 halftime advantage.
The home team fans cheered AEK back onto the floor after the break, and Nikos Zisis made them happier by scoring his first basket for a 53-40 scoreboard. The defenses were getting yelled at by both coaches, and after 25 minutes, AEK was ahead 14 points, 62-48, thanks to another big basket-plus-foul by Lollis, who slipped under two defenders and scored. Two steals by House against Nikolaidis helped Partizan bring the margin down to 9 points at 62-53. Hatzis came back to calm the situation and Lollis got to the line for 2 more points, but Vule Avdalovic found his way to the basket in the final seconds to make the difference and even 10 points, 70-60, after 30 minutes.
Partizan got within single digits at 70-62 with a basket from Ostojic, but AEK ace Lolli made another basket and free throw in response. Next, Zisis found the way to an easy fastbreak layup, and soon a triple by Jenkins made it 80-66 after 33 minutes. But AEK started to have problems with fouls. Papaioakeim took his fifth and left the game, while Hatzis, Lollis and center Andrea Glynadiakis also committed their fourth fouls. Meanwhile, House's layup for Partizan cut the margin to 9 points with 5 minutes still to play. Then Seculic was the fifth AEK player with four fouls and coach Katsikaris called a zone defence to avoid more absences. With a three-pointer made by Dusan Kecman, Partizan was back in the game now at 85-80, a lead AEK held at 89-84 a short time later. Another 2 free throws from House made it 89-86, but Tapoutos scored a big three-pointer to give AEK oxygen at 92-86. With under a minute left, Ostojic scored to make it 93-89, but with 19 seconds left Tapoutos came along with another big basket. Though Ostojic still had a three-point play left in him, AEK clinched its second win when Goran Cacic missed a potential game-tying three-pointer.
Thursday, December 18, 2003