Rytas hits 18 threes in routing Tofas
Rytas Vilnius set a club record with 18 three-pointers in routing Tofas Bursa 99-83 on Tuesday night at Siemens Arena in the Lithuanian capital. Rytas, which improved to 4-5 in Group B, was able to celebrate a spot in the Top 16 nearly 2 hours after its game ended thanks to Umana Reyer Venice defeating Limoges CSP. The game had some wild swings with the hosts using runs of 16-0 in the first quarter and 11-0 in the second to take a commanding 57-31 halftime lead. Rytas knew that a win by at least 21 would already send it to the Top 16 and that seemed likely at the break, but Tofas scored the first 17 points of the second half to rally within 9. Tofas could not get closer than that and Rytas went into the final minute of the game still hoping for a 21-point margin, but came up short. Arnas Butkevicius tied his career-high in scoring and recorded his first EuroCup double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds to lead the winners. Martynas Echodas also scored 18 and added 8 rebounds, Pako Cruz tallied 17 points and 7 assists, Deividas Sirvydis scored 14 and Mindaugas Girdziunas and Eimantas Bendzius netted 13 apiece for Rytas. Tofas, which fell to 4-5, would have advanced to the Top 16 if it won and now will host Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar in a do-or-die game in Round 10. D.J. White paced Tofas with 18 points on 4-of-5 three-point shooting and tied a club record with 4 blocked shots. Devin Williams amassed 16 points and 13 rebounds, Sammy Mejia also scored 16 and Matt Lojeski and Tarik Phillip added 10 points apiece.
Cruz hooked up with Echodas twice in the first 2 minutes to give the hosts an early lead, but Tofas tied things at 8-8 on a Mejia triple and then took the lead through a Baris Ermis layup. Back-to-back three-pointers by Butkevicius and another from Cruz put Rytas in charge and prompted a Tofas timeout at 17-10. The stoppage did little for the visitors as Cruz added another three and Echodas scored twice more to make it a run of 16 unanswered points and a commanding 24-10 advantage. Berkan Durmaz put back his own miss to end the Tofas drought, however Rytas continued to toll and a triple by Girdziunas – Rytas's sixth of the quarter – made it 32-16. Baskets by Muhsin Yasar and Lojeski narrowed the gap to 32-20 after 10 minutes. Echodas scored 6 as Rytas reeled off 11 in a row to start the second quarter. Nearly 5 minutes passed before Mejia scored Tofas's first basket of the quarter. Back-to-back threes by Cruz and Sirvydis gave Rytas a comfortable 57-31 halftime advantage.
Tofas regrouped at halftime and behind White and Mejia and scored the first 17 points of the second half to get within 9. Butkevicius knocked down a three to end a 4-and-a-half-minute scoreless period for Rytas, but White countered with his third three of the quarter to make it 60-51. The hosts eventually got back on track with triples from Sirvydis and Bendzius to stretch the margin to 68-53. A pair of threes by Girdziunas to finish the third quarter made it 77-55. Tofas was not ready to throw in the towel and after a three by White and a Lojeski layup off Mejia’s steal, the hosts called a timeout. A three-point play from Williams and a three-pointer by Phillip made it 80-68. Williams’s hustle made it a 10-point game with 4 minutes remaining. Girdziunas made a layup at one end and drew an offensive foul at the other as Rytas looked to put the game on ice in the penultimate minute. A triple by Bendzius did just that at 93-77 with 1 minute to play. Rytas tried to take the lead to the needed 21 in that final minute, however, a Mejia three with 10 seconds to go ended that hope.
Rytas set a club record with 18 three-pointers, which was 2 off the EuroCup record and certainly the key stat for the game. Arnas Butkevicius (4 of 5) and Deividas Sirvydis (4 of 6) were the top marksmen and Pako Cruz, Mindaugas Girdziunas and Eimantas Bendzius each drained 3. Dovis Bickauskis made the other. Eytas had 6 threes in both the first and third quarters and 3 each in the second and fourth. The previous club record was 16, which Rytas accomplished twice. That wasn’t the only Rytas record for the night; it’s 32 points scored in the first quarter was also a club mark.
A Lithuanian delight
Pako Cruz, a native of Mexico, was the only non-Lithuanian player to score for Rytas. American Tu Holloway played sparingly and Australia's Cameron Bairstow did not feature. Some of the players who led the way are products of Rytas's youth system, giving the fans a little extra to cheer about.
Mejia makes more history
Sammy Mejia climbed to spots on the EuroCup's career scoring list in this game to rank eighth all-time with 1,142 points. He leapfrogged Radoslav Rancik (1,127) and Todor Stoykov (1,138) to get there. Mejia needs 5 points in Round 10 to catch Chuck Davis for the seventh spot.
In the final round of the regular season, Tofas will host Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar in a do-or-die battle on Tuesday, December 19. The following night, Rytas visits Umana Reyer Venice.
Tuesday, December 10, 2019