Montepaschi took over second place in Group D halfway through the Top 16 when it downed visiting Ulker 84-71 at home in Siena, Italy on Wednesday. Montepaschi lifted its record to 2-1 while Ulker dropped to 1-2 in the Group D standings. Bootsy Thornton led the winners with 14 points. Efthimios Rentzias post 13 off the bench and Carlton Myers 11, while Giacomo Galanda and Michalis Kakiouzis each added 10 for Montepaschi. Serkan Erdogan led Ulker with 20 points. Kerem Gonlum and Dusan Vukcevic each added 11 while Kerem Tunceri had 10 for the guests. Vukcevic and Montepaschi's former head coach, Ergin Ataman, came back to town together on the Ulker bench and received a warm welcome from the Siena fans, but their team had it tough all night. Montepaschi led all the way and by as many as 15 points late in the third quarter. Erdogan rallied Ulker within 67-62 with 6 minutes to go, but Myers, Chiacig and Kakiouzis fueled a 10-0 run that sealed the outcome.
Montepaschi opened the game with a 6-0 run in which Thornton landed the first three-pointer of the night. Ulker guests immediately switched to a zone defense and got their own first basket at the arc, by Dusan Vukcevic, but that only gave Montepaschi more ideas. The next three shots for the hosts also came from the arc - by Vanterpool, Galanda and Chiacig - and all went in, establishing a 15-7 lead. Only 5 points from Eurelijus Zukauskas, including a basket assisted marvelously by Tunceri, kept Ulker in the game then. But not even a triple from Saulius Stombergas could bring the visitors close, as Efthimios Rentzias jumped off the bench for 2 good shots inside for a 19-10 Montepaschi lead. Galanda pushed the advantage into double digits by finishing the quarter with a layup and a dunk to make it 23-11 in favor of the hosts.
Montepaschi's zone defense worked long enough at the start of the second quarter for the lead to balloon to 28-11 as Thornton assisted Rentzias on a layup and Carlton Myers buried a three-pointer. Not a moment too soon, Ulker finally reacted with a 0-7 run in which Virginijus Praskevicius popped a triple between driving baskets by Erdogan and Tunceri. When Vukcevic joined in with his second triple, Ulker was within 30-21. After almost 2 scoreless minutes, the Ulker run continued with Erdogan drilling from the arc while Gonlum dunked and made the added free throw for a 30-27 score. The 2-16 Ulker run ended with Michalis Kakiouzis reeling off 5 points for Montepaschi with a triple and a drive to the basket. Erdogan answered with a triple for Ulker, but Davide Lamma copied him to help preserve Montepaschi's 40-33 halftime advantage.
An impressive shootout fired up the third quarter. Galanda seemed to put Montepaschi completely in charge with a triple that restored a double-digit edge, 43-33. The unflappable Erdogan answered that, however, and when Mindaugas Zukauskas of Montepaschi hit from the arc, Tunceri was ready with another reply for Ulker, leaving the scoreboard at 46-39. Erdogan was back with another triple by the midde of the quarter, making it 50-43, but then Montepaschi made an impressive acceleration. Thornton finished a pair fastbreaks, one assisted by Vrbica Stefanov in his return from injury, during an 8-0 splurge that set the lead at 59-43. Rentzias pushed it even higher with free throws and a triple that meant a 63-45 scoreboard. But if Ulker looked in big trouble, the visitors also had a 2-8 run to make behind Eurelijus Zukauskas and Tunceri that cut the difference to 65-53 after 30 minutes.
Kerem Gonlum sparked Ulker's fourth-quarter comeback with a pair of baskets in the first minute, and when Erdogan raised up for his fifth three-pointer of the night, the visitors were as close as 67-60. A couple scoreless minutes again passed until Gonlum blasted a dunk to take a couple more points off the difference. Ulker had a chance to cut it further, but Thornton blocked Erdogan's fastbreak layup, and Ulker coach Ergin Ataman, the former boss at Montepaschi, was whistled for a technical foul. Montepaschi had only 2 points to show then for the first 4 minutes of the quarter, but that was about to change. Myers hit a technical foul shot before Chiachig added a layup-plus-free throw. Then, Myers beat the shot clock with a triple and Kakiouzis followed him a minute later as Montepaschi soared head 77-62 with under 4 minutes left. Stombergas would drop the difference to 77-67 with a shot from downtown, but Ulker never got closer than that and Montepaschi was alone in second place at the buzzer.
Wednesday, March 9, 2005