A do-or-die survival test for a place in the Last 16 ended in dramatic fashion as Kim Tillie's jumper with three-tenths of a second left in overtime lifted Asvel Basket to a thrilling 69-68 victory over visiting Lukoil Academic of Bulgaria at home on Tuesday in Villeurbanne, France. Asvel not only avoided elimination by finishing with a 4-2 record, but also finished first in Group D in a tie-break over Valencia Basket of Spain, which lost on the road at Telenet Oostende in Belgium. Dijon Thompson's jump hook for the hosts sent the game to overtime, where Asvel led 63-58 halfway through. Bruno Sundov made 2 three-pointers in a minute and then tipped in a miss with 20 seconds left to give Lukoil the lead. Asvel nearly lost possession before Tillie's two-pointer from the wing sent the hosts forward to the Last 16, which starts in mid-January. Thompson led the winners with 21 points while Tillie added 19 and Phil Goss 10. Lukoil, which finished with a 2-4 record, got 14 points each from Todor Stoykov and Brandon Heath, 11 from Andre Owens and 10 from Sundov.
The game was a preceded by a moment of silence for former Asvel player Ronnie Smith, who died at age 49. He had won two French League titles and played in the 1997 Euroleague Final Four with Asvel. Tillie got Asvel going with a fade-away jumper in the paint while Stoykov, the Eurocup's all-time leading scorer, got to the line to tie it up for Lukoil 2-2. Despite a subsequent triple by Stoykov, Thompson took over with 7 consecutive points coming from 2 jump shots and free throws as Asvel surged ahead 10-5. However, Brandon Heath answered from the corner, Stoykov's tied it up with free throws and Andre Owens downed a baseline two-pointer for Lukoil's first lead, 10-12. It wouldn't be the last, however, as Lukoil controlled the boards and found extra scorers in Lamont Mack and Bruno Sundov before Stoykov drilled a triple from the corner to make it 10-21. After a timeout, Bangaly Fofana hit free throws for Asvel to cut Lukoil's run at 0-16, although the visitors were well ahead, 12-21, after 10 minutes. Pavel Marinov restored Lukoil's double-digit lead to open the second quarter, but Fofana answered with a three-point play and Phil Goss with a steal and layup at 17-23. Heath drilled a triple in response, but soon Tillie was back to down a tough jump-hook and slam on the break for a 21-26 scoreboard. Tencho Banev converted a steal into points for Lukoil before Stoykov fed Owens for a triple to push he difference to 10 points again, 21-31. Great ball movement leading to a jumper by Bozhidar Avramov was answered by Thompson from downtown - Asvel's first triple - and a driving one-hander by Leo Wesermann, cutting the difference to 27-33. Out of a timeout, Stoykov scored in the post before Goss made a jumper and fed Tillie to make it 32-35. Heath calmed Lukoil with a quick drive and a layup off a steal as the visitors hit the lockers with a 32-39 advantage.
Westermann and Tillie struck first for Asvel in the second half before Mack made a put-back for Lukoil at 36-41. Thompson and Tillie hit jumpers to get Asvel closer, allowing Hilton Armstrong to give the hosts their first lead since the first quarter on a quick shot to beat the 24-second clock. Westermann kept up the run with a three-point play for the hosts, who now had a 45-41 lead and a 13-2 run since halftime. Lukoil needed all of the shot clock, too, before Owens rattled in a big triple. Goss added free throws as the Asvel defense kept causing Lukoil problems on the way to a 47-44 lead at the end of three quarters. Lukoil made its move to start the final quarter, with Banev scoring in close and Heath from long range for a quick 47-49 change on the scoreboard. Goss struck right back with a smooth triple, then Tillie rocked the rim for a 52-49 Asvel lead, but Owens tied it up within seconds on one shot. With 6 minutes left in one of their seasons, the teams fought wildly for loose balls until Avramov came out of nowhere to bury a triple to put the visitors up again. Asvel hadn't scored in 4 minutes until Armstrong dropped a shot to make it 54-55, but the points were coming slow for the hosts, who saw Heath add to Lukoil's lead with a free throw. With 1:17 to play, Thompson returned for a pretty jump hook to tie it up, 56-56. A long Lukoil possession yielded nothing, which gave Asvel the ball with 26.9 seconds left. The hosts went to Thompson, whose shot was blocked by Owens. A non-shooting foul at the other end left Lukoil with 1.5 seconds to try to win it. The visitors inbounded to an open Mack, but Armstrong intercepted the ball to force overtime.
Goss put Asvel ahead with 2 free throws to open overtime and then fed Tillie to make it 60-56. Mack responded with a layup for Lukoil but Thompson measured off a triple to make it 63-58 and fire up the home crowd. Sundov revived Lukoil with a huge triple, then stepped outside and did it again! Suddenly it was tied up again, 64-64, with 1:37 left. After a timeout, Asvel went to Thompson, who hammered in a triple that Mack answered with a two-pointer from the baseline. A 24-second shot-clock violation gave the ball back to Lukoil with 37 seconds left, and a miss by Heath was tipped in by Sundov, with 20 seconds left, putting the visitors up 67-68. Westermann drove, lost the ball, and was tied up, but Asvel retained possession with 5 seconds left. Westermann's pass went to Tillie on the wing, and his shot went straight down for a 69-68 Asvel lead. With 3 seconds left, Stoykov tried to pass into the paint, but Asvel stole it, sending the hosts forward to the Last 16.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011