After advancing to the Top 16 even before tipoff on mathematical grounds, Winterthur FC Barcelona went out and double-stamped its ticket with a 65-69 road win over Adecco Asvel in Group B on Wednesday. CSKA's win over Unicaja earlier in Group C meant that Barcelon would not finish worse than the best sixth-place team in the competition, and was therefore qualified. Then, in a tough game dominated by aggressive defenses, Dejan Bodiroga emerged as Barcelona's leader one more time, making the decisive three-pointer in the last minute of the victory. Barcelona's record improved to 8-5 as it took over sole possession of second place, while last-place Asvel dropped to 2-11. Bodiroga was Barcelona's best scorer with 17 points, while Gregor Fucka added 16 and Vlado Ilievski 14 more. For Asvel, Tomislav Ruzic led the way with his 19 points and Huseyin Besok nailed 12.
Ruzic opened the scoring after some unsuccessful attempts on both sides and Ilievski replied with free throws. Barcelona's defense started to work at 100 percent, forcing a 24-second violation on Asvel before Danny Miller slammed on a steal and fastbreak to tie 4-4. Ruzic found open jumpers to put Asvel ahead again, 9-6. Only Bodiroga among the visitors seemed to find decent shots until then, but his next basket sparked a 0-7 run capped by Ilievski's three-point play that gave Barcelona a 9-13 lead. Asvel tied again when Besok hit a pair of turnaround jumpers, but Ilievski answered with the game's first shot from downtown. Besok scored yet again but Bodiroga downed 2 free throws as the visitors held a 17-19 advantage after 10 minutes.
Besok, still on fire starting, made 2 more baskets from mid-range to start the second quarter, and Lyday added a triple to give Asvel a 24-21 edge. Asvel got bad news when Besok picked his second foul and went to the bench, but Ruzic upped the lead to 26-21. Victor Sada broke a three-minute scoring drought for Barcelona three-point play and Fucka made it 28-26 with a put-back. Asvel resisted at the foul line, staying ahead 30-26, and preserving that lead when Stephane Pelle slammed to make it 32-28. Barcelona was ahead on rebounds, 11-16, at that point, but was not able to finish its plays when close to the basket. But the visitors were getting to the foul line, where a pair of free throws each by Ramon Espuña, Fucka and Ilievski was enough to send Barcelona ahead by 32-36 at halftime.
Fucka and Pelle traded baskets to start the second half as the defensive intensity of both teams increased. Ilievski's free throws a fastbreak dunk by Fucka now pushed the guests ahead 36-43. Soon, Bodiroga was hitting his 11th point on a perfect fadeaway jumper for a 38-47 difference. The guests forged their first double-digit lead, 40-51, as Fucka finished another fast combination, to which he then added another basket. Bodiroga now blasted a new triple, but Asvel never surrendered as young Yohann Sangare drove in traffic to help the hosts stay within 49-57 after 30 minutes.
Pelle was the only one score through 2 minutes of the final quarter, until Barcelona's Devin Davis made his first shot in 8 attempts and Juan Carlos Navarro added fast triple for a 53-62 scoreboard. Herve Toure also hit from downtown and Pelle added a bucket to trim the difference back to 4 points, 58-62. Barcelona struggled again despite having both Fucka and Bodiroga on court, and Asvel made it a two-point game when Ruzic hit a jumper. Navarro missed a free throw now but Lyday failed to tie from the arc when he had the chance. With 2 minutes left, Besok scored his first basket since the second quarter to make it 62-63. But when all looked dangerous for Barcelona, Bodiroga drilled an explosive triple to let his team breathe at 62-66. Navarro posted 2 more free throws before Ruzic landed a triple with 20 seconds left. Down 65-68, Asvel fouled Ilievski, who made a free throw that was enough to ensure a new road win for Barcelona to celebrate with its Top 16 berth.
Wednesday, February 2, 2005