Tau Ceramica took the showdown between undefeated teams in Group F by thrashing Fenerbahce Ulker 103-84 at the Fernando Buesa Arena in Vitoria, Spain, on Wednesday night. Tau Ceramica improved to 2-0 and is now the only unbeaten team in Group F. Meanwhile, Fenerbahce Ulker is tied with Lietuvos Rytas for second place, each with a 1-1 record. Both teams face each other next week in a pivotal game. Sergi Vidal and Zoran Planinic paced seven scorers in double figures for the winners each with 14 points. Igor Rakocevic added 13, Mirza Teletovic and Tiago Splitter had 12 apiece, Will McDonald 11 and Gabe Mouneke 10 for Tau. Oguz Savas had a career-high 20 points for Fenerbahce, Willie Solomon added 14, Damir Kaan 12 and Tarence Kinsey 10. McDonald, Teletovic and Rakocevic helped Tau to get a solid lead, 25-17, after 10 minutes. A layup by Splitter boosted the hosts' margin to 38-22 midway through the second quarter, but Kaan and Kinsey brought Fenerbahce within 50-38 at halftime. A 13-0 run that Rakocevic capped with a triple broke the game open, 63-40, right after the break. Tau boosted its margin to 82-58 early in the fourth period and cruised to a well-deserved win.
Tau opened fire with a Planinic layup as he was pretty active in the early going, taking advantage of his size against Omer Onan. The guests used a matchup-zone defense very early, but Tau seemed prepared to break it as the hosts amassed a comfortable margin at 15-9 midway through the first quarter after a corner three-pointer by Teletovic. Although the hosts were not very accurate in shooting, they managed to win the rebounding battle and prevented Fenerbahce from taking control of the pace of the game. The Turkish champs found Solomon on the perimeter to stay alive as Fenerbahce switched to different defensive schemes in an attempt to break Tau’s rhythm. It didn’t work however, as Pete Mickeal and Teletovic added a fastbreak layup and a triple, respectively, to maintain a safe margin, 23-15, after nine minutes. The first problem for Neven Spahija came when Planinic committed his third foul, granting 2 free throws to Onan and forcing Pablo Prigioni to replace him. Rakocevic added 2 free throws to finish the first period with Tau leading 25-17.
The hosts kept rocking from the three-point line, as Teletovic hit his third to boost Tau to a double-digit lead early in the second quarter. Vidal came out to guard Solomon, but Fener head coach Bogdan Tanjevic soon replaced him in an attempt to preserve his top scorer for the key moments. With Kaan running the offense, Fenerbahce looked for the inside players, but both Omer Asik and Savas struggled against Splitter and Muoneke, who provided dominant play in the paint at both ends. Splitter added a layup and Muoneke capped a fast-break with a monster dunk for a 36-22 edge midway through the second period, forcing an urgent timeout by the guests. Tanjevic kept rotating his frontcourt players, trying to find the right combination to stop Tau from easy scoring. It didn’t work, however, as the hosts kept adding points easily. But the main problem for Fenerbahce was on offense. The guests scored only 6 points in the first eight minutes of the period, allowing the hosts to increase their self-confidence. Kaan and Kinsey came to the rescue and combined for 4 triples to enter the last minute with some hopes, 47-34. Vidal answered from the corner with another three, as Kaan sunk his third to cap an incredible shooting festival for a 50-37 Tau edge. Kinsey shortened the gap even more with a free throw, as the first half finished with a 50-38 lead for the hosts.
Fenerbahce started the third period using Solomon and Kaan together at point, but it didn’t help the guests to find a good scoring rhythm. McDonald and Teletovic combined for 7 points in a row to widen the margin to 57-40 after 23 minutes, as Tau got very bad news after Pete Mickeal had to be replaced after hurting his leg in an offensive play. Planinic added a basket-plus-foul for a 20-point lead right after that, which seemed to become the definitive break for the visitors. The streak didn’t finish at that point, as Rakocevic sank a triple and Simas Jasaitis followed him with another one to raise the difference to 66-42 after 26 minutes. The game got crazy for a while, as both teams started playing run-and-gun basketball that didn’t help the guests in their attempt to reduce the margin to less humiliating numbers. Five straight points by Solomon helped Fenerbahce to reach the end of the period trailing 74-56, taking advantage of Tau’s erratic offense in the last three minutes.
The hosts solved the situation with back-to-back triples by Sergi Vidal and Muoneke, as Prigioni got a technical foul that wasn’t exploited by Solomon at the free-throw line. Although the outcome was in no doubt for Tau, the pace of the game turned slow and discontinuous for a while due to many personal fouls called at both ends. A timeout was useful to recover normalcy, as differences remained stable at 20-points with both teams exchanging baskets. Neither Tau nor Fenerbahce stopped playing, however, as both sides were aware of that point-difference could become crucial at the end of the Top 16. The visitors tried to reduce differences by feeding their inside players, but it wasn’t enough as an alley-oop by Splitter and a triple by Planinic raised the difference to 97-70 with two minutes to go. Another alley-oop finished by Planinic allowed Tau to break the 100-point mark, although Savas hit twice from downtown, once from inside the paint and twice again from the free throw line to prevent Tau from taking a 30-point lead and finishing the game with a 103-84 win for the hosts.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008