Pau-Orthez of France has took revenge for a previous loss at home by outlasting Buducnost at Podgorica 77-79 at a crucial moment in the Group C race for the Top 16. With the victory, Pau improved to 7-5 and retained a share of third place with CSKA Moscow, who also survived a scare. Both are just a victory behind Real Madrid (8-4), which lost Thursday at Skipper Bologna (6-6), which stays on everyone's heels. Buducnost, meanwhile, suffered yet another loss (2-10) despite the fight to the finish before its expectant home fans. Without starting centers Nikola Jestratijevic, who is suspended, and Dejan Milivojec, who is injured, the Yugoslav champs had an opportunity to win, but luck and experience were on Pau's side this time. Pau was led, once more, by Roger Esteller with 20 points. Rod Sellers was the main helper of the Catalan adding 19 points. For the hosts, Igor Rakocevic netted 23 points and Vladimir Kuzmanovic added 10.
The first half was balanced, but after a small lead for the visitors 2-6 and 7-9, Buducnost led the way throughout. Rakocevic, more experienced than his young team mates, led his team to a 6-point lead two times, but Pau didn't permit the Yugoslavs to escape. Buducnost presented good numbers in the two-point shooting (15 of 24, 62%) in the first half against Pau's 7 of 19. Only the points by Esteller impeded Buducnost to pull away, and the teams arrived at the half time break with 41-36.
In the second half, Buducnost remained in the game thanks to the threes by Rakocevic and Kuzmanovic, and maintained the lead over 5 or 6 points from 48-42 to 53-48. But then appeared Rod Sellers. The American center of the Greens took all responsibility and kept his team alive. A technical foul called on Dragan Lukovski could have been fatal for Pau, but at the end of the third period, the 60-57 gave options to both teams.
After many minutes down in the score, Pau-Orthez got in the lead at the beginning of the final quarter, 62-64, but the hosts tied the score up to 5 times, even after a three-point play by Sellers for 68-71. Dejan Radonjic replied with a three, but Derrick Lewis gave the 3-point lead to his team again. After threes missed by Radonjic and Rakocevic and only a free throw converted by the guests, young forward Blagota Sekulic cut down the deficit to 1 with a three, 74-75 with 17 second to go. In the neverending last moments of the game, stuffed with personal fouls, Frederick Fauthoux missed one of two free throws (76-78) and made a foul to Radonjic. When overtime was exepected by everybody in the arena, the best home shooter missed one free throw and scored the next one for 77-78, and a new foul on Fauthoux put the final 77-79.
Thursday, January 31, 2002