Limoges CSP and Partizan NIS Belgrade went on the road in Round 9 knowing that a loss would mathematically end their Top 16 dreams, while ratiopharm Ulm had a must-win home game facing an elimination scenario of its own. But all three teams fought hard and found ways to pull out victories down the stretch, keeping alive their respective chances to see the next stage.
Limoges can thank its long-range bombers for keeping the team in the Top 16 hunt. Jordan Taylor and William Howard both nailed 4 of 7 three-pointers as Limoges hit 14 of 25 (56.0%) from downtown in a 92-98 win at Tofas Bursa. Howard's three-pointers included a three-quarters court heave with 0.8 seconds left before halftime and a triple just before the third-quarter buzzer.
The Tofas coaching staff already had nightmares of the Limoges three-point shooters from earlier in the season as the French side made 13 of 28 (46.4%) from long range in an 89-81 win in late October in Limoges. With another impressive three-point performance, Limoges swept Tofas and turned the tables in the Group B race. Limoges would have been eliminated with a loss Tuesday night, but to continue its EuroCup journey all it now needs is either a win in Round 10 against already-eliminated Arka Gdynia or a loss by Tofas on the road at Cedevita Zagreb.
Equally impressive, if not more so, was Partizan's upset of LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne, which had not lost a home game this season until last night. Partizan, like Limoges, had not won a road game this season prior to Round 9, but Coach Andrea Trinchieri's men found a way in a see-saw battle.
"I really don't know how [we won]," Trinchieri said after his team had problems closing out the game, but refused to lose. "At least we've got heart. We won the game, we lost the game, and we won the game again. That's a good thing for a young team like mine. It's not over til it's over."
With this win Partizan improved to 3-6, going from the brink of elimination to a situation where a win in Round 10 can clinch a place in the Top 16. However, a win next week would not guarantee that Partizan advances, just as is the case with Ulm, which downed visiting MoraBanc Andorra 88-80 with another fine effort on its home floor. Ulm's defense held Andorra to below 39% shooting for both two-pointers and three-pointers and the team made clutch shots every single time it needed one.
Ulm has a 4-5 record and will next go on the road to play Germani Brescia Leonessa, but just like Partizan, will not know if a win there will be enough for the Top 16. However, both teams, along with Limoges, did not just survive, but dramatically improved their chances and have helped set up a wild final round of the regular season, where as many as six Top 16 berths might still be up for grabs.