Thanks to 31 points of Vlado Scepanovic, Partizan Belgrade of Yugoslavia got the best of host Adecco Asvel Basket 78-91 in Villeurbanne, France on Wednesday to rejoin the leaders of Group D. With this win, Belgrade raised its record to 5-2, while Asvel fell to 3-4 and at risk for not making it to the Top 16. The home team could not find a defensive answer for Scepanovic, whose first-half scoring display gave Partizan the cushion to control the game instead of playing from behind on a strange court. Jovo Stanojevic added 15 points in the middle for Partizan and Nenad Canak 13. Nikola Vujcic led Asvel with 14 points. Yann Bonato added 12, all in the second half, Kyle Hill 11 and Nikola Radulovic 10.
Scepanovic showed early why he was the Yugoslavian national team hero with a gold medal around his neck in Turkey in Septementer. He scored five points to start the game, and kept rising up to 13 by the end of 10 minutes. Scepanovic's scoring overshadowed David Frigout's offensive rebounding, good for 7 points in the quarter, and Nikola Radulovic good form at small forward for Asvel. Partizan was still ahead 12-18 after six minutes and it took Tim Nees coming off the bench with six consecutive points to enable the French hosts to come back in the game. Scepanovic kept on putting on the show in the second quarter, scoring five points in the first four minutes of the period and, with the help of the other international player of the team, Veselin Petrovic, gave his club an eight-point lead, 40-32, after 17 minutes. By that time, the Partizan Belgrade was 5 for 7 from the three-point line. Two more threes by Scepanovic, who finished with 21 points in the first half, and Nenad Canak dug a 12-point gap in favur of the Yugoslavian team 37-45. Partizan held the same margin, 40-48, at the half.
In the early third quarter, Partizan kept the three-pointers falling - eight in all so far - and was able to retain control of the game despite a surge by Yann Bonato. The captain of Asvel, mute in the first half, scored five points to draw his team within 50-56 after 24 minutes. Then, with Asvel's inside players unable to deliver, Harold Mrazek began to shoot, too, coming up with seven points in the quarter. With the score at 58-62, Asvel guard Kyle Hill had a chance to cut the lead to just two on a fastbreak but missed the lay up Canak scored a three four seconds later and the unstoppable Scepanovic hit two baskets in the last twenty seconds of the quarter to boost the lead to 61-72.
Asvel found a defensive solution to preserve its hope. As a matter of fact, the Yugoslav team had to wait five minutes to score its first basket, Yann Bonato gathering seven points in the meantime and cutting the deficit to 72-77. But the fierce activity of the solid center Djuro Ostojic, who had eight points in the quarter and some big rebounds, cooled off Asvel's enthusiasm and Partizan pulled slowly away.
Wednesday, December 5, 2001
Fabien Friconnet, France