Say hello to the undisputed top team in the ULEB Cup with only two game left in the regular season: FMP Zeleznik of Yugoslavia. By beating mighty Pamesa Valencia of Spain 80-67 at home Tuesday, Zeleznik took exclusive hold at the top of Group B with record 7-1. Pamesa is down to 6-2 at the second place because two men had their show at Tuesday evening in Belgrade: Ognjen Askrabic, who scored 19 points, and Reggie Freeman, who added 16. More important than the point-scoring was their defensive contrubution to the Zeleznik's impresive win. Pamesa's top scorer was Bernard Hopkins with 14 points, followed by Fabricio Oberto with 13 and Jose Paraiso with 11. Both teams had already qualified for the second round before the game.
It took only minutes for Zeleznik to seize control with a 16-3 run to an 18-9 lead. In that first period, Askrabic scored three triples and Freeman added another. Zeleznik won that period 28-18, playing much better defense and adding a lot of fastbreaks. Pamesa returned to the game in the second period depending on offensive rebounds. Alessandro Abio and Oberto played 5 great minutes, resulting in a 4-17 run with which Pamesa tied the score at 38-38 before teams went for a half break.
The third period saw Pamesa try a zone defense, but Zeleznik managed to break it. Freeman, Ivan Zoroski and Veselin Petrovic scored triples, Askrabic shoted from outside and Goran Nikolic reigned under the boards. It all added up to a 21-4 run for Zeleznik that mean a lead of 17 points, 65-48, with 2 minutes left in the third quater. The final period was routine. Pamesa managed to come closer, 74-62, but that was as close as the co-leader of the Spanish League got to the exclusive leader of the Yugoslav League. The curiosity of the game is that Pamesa had much more rebounds than Zeleznik (31-18). Oberto, Tomasevic, Paraiso had 17 offensive rebounds, but the visitors shot only 49% from the field. Three-pointers Pamesa shot even worse, 2 of 12, while Zeleznik made 7 of 17. One more curiosity: players from the Zeleznik bench scored only 9 points, while Pamesa bench scored 40 points.
Tuesday, December 17, 2002