2003-04Top 16Round 4
March 25, 2004 CET: 20:40
Local time: 20:40 S.DARIUS AND S.GIRENAS SPORT CENTER

With just a pair of Top 16 weeks left, Zalgiris Kaunas got help from an unlikely source to keep its hand firmly on first place in Group G with a resounding 95-72 home victory over winless Ulker on Thursday. The victory boosts Zalgiris to 3-1 as it awaits the Euroleague Disciplinary Judge's decision on the game between Maccabi and Pamesa Valencia that was suspended on Thursday when the Spanish team did not travel to Tel Aviv. All three teams had been tied 2-1 entering the week. The unexpected star for Zalgiris on Thursday was 2.12-meter center Darjusz Lawrynowicz, who had played only 15 minutes in previous Euroleague games this season, but finished with 17 points. He made 5 of 7 two-pointers, his only attempted triple and 4 of 4 free throws, while also blocking 3 shots. Dainius Salenga came next with 15 points, and Arvydas Sabonis with a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds. Mindaugas Timinskas chipped in 11 points, Tanoka Beard and Giedrius Gustas 10 each. For Ulker, which travelled without Top 16 scoring leader Ibrahim Kutluay and center Efthimios Rentzias, Petar Naumoski had 17 points, Veljko Mrsic 14, Joseph Blair 11, Tutku Acik and Melvin Booker 10 each.

Zalgiris surprised people by sending out little-used Simonas Serapinas and Lawrynowicz in starting five together with a limping Sabonis, who has a sore toe. Serapinas immediately understood his difficult defensive duty as Naumoski opened the game with a three-pointer. Sabonis soon matched him with a shot from downtown, after which Salenga and Serapinas started scoring until Zalgiris had 11 unanswered points and an 11-3 advantage. Ulker's Joe Blair was having tough time in the paint, so the visitors lived just on long-distance shots by Naumoski, who had his team's points on a 15-8 scoreboard after 5 minutes. Naumoski added another 3 points and Blair joined him with a basket as Ulker reduced the gap to 17-13 after 8 minutes. Tanoka Beard replaced Sabonis and immediately made a jumper, then Giedrius Gustas added another basket to help Zalgiris finish the quarter with a healthy lead, 23-15.

To start the second quarter, Ulker set up a zone, but Mindaugas Timinskas and Gustas punished it with three-pointers for a 29-15 Zalgiris advantage. Ulker forward Veljko Mrsic, a former Zalgiris player, showed he still knew the court by getting to the foul line for 4 points, but they were negated by a Beard basket and a triple by Ainars Bagatskis. After Tutku Acik dribbled through the Zalgiris defense for a nice off-the-glass basket, Mrsic got to shoot free throws again and ruded the gap to 35-27. A parade of Zalgiris players kept contributing with points, eight of them had 4 points or more in the half - but it was Salenga who stood out, dunking spectacularly on a steal following a Tutku Acik three-pointer for Ulker. In the closing mnute, the scoring pace continued with Ed Cota hitting a basket and Timinskas dunking for Zalgiris while Mrsic finally scored from somewhere besides the foul line, dropping a buzzer-beater that left the halftime difference at an even 10 points, 47-37.

If the revival of Salenga was good news for Zalgiris fans in the first half, the second brought more in the person of Lawrynowicz, who opened the scoring after the break by converting a lob pass from Sabonis. Booker scored a couple baskets for Ulker, but in each case, Lawrynowicz was ready with a reply, adding 2 more points from the foul line for a 55-41 Zalgiris lead. Blair and Mrsic conbined for 5 points to bring Ulker within 58-46, so Lawrynowicz simply dropped a three-pointer to climb to 15 points so far. Booker and Cota exchanged baskets, then Timinskas answered a two-pointer by Blair with a triple. With under 3 minutes left, Naumoski scored free throws, his first points since the opening quarter, but Lawrynowicz rejected his next shot and then went to the line himself, boosting his point total to 17 and the Zalgiris lead after 30 minutes to 72-55.

Zalgiris showed it would not slip as Sabonis started the final quarter with a fadeaway jumper and a dunk. Another three-pointer by Acik and more points from him and Muratcan Guler got the difference down to 79-65 before Ulker tried a zone defense again. After an airball, Gustas showed his nerves are fit by making a three-pointer on the successive possession. Ed Cota, who would finish with 7 assists, then gave Zalgiris its first 20-point lead, 87-67. With 4 minutes to go, another Zalgiris youngster, Andrius Lepinaitis, made his Euroleague debut, signalling that the outcome was already obvious to both teams. In the time before the buzzer, they staged a spectacular show for the crowd, 150 Ulker fans included, with Lepinaitis scoring his first points, while Sabonis and Beard increased the lead to 23 points when the buzzer sounded.

Thursday, March 25, 2004
Arunas Pakula, Kaunas
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Referees: DE KEYSER, ARMAND; DOZAI, SRDAN; GKONTAS, SPIROS; ZYCH, WIESLAW
Attendance: 5000
By Quarter1234
Zalgiris23242523
Ulker15221817
End of Quarter1234
Zalgiris23477295
Ulker15375572
Zalgiris
  Rebounds Blocks Fouls
# Player Min Pts 2FG 3FG FT O D T As St To Fv Ag Cm Rv PIR
4 LEPINAITIS, ANDRIUS 4:15 2 1/1   0/1           1     1 1  
5 GUSTAS, GIEDRIUS 19:45 10 2/6 2/3   1 1 2 2         3   6
6 BEARD, TANOKA 27:15 10 4/7   2/6 5 4 9 1 1   1 1 2 5 17
8 LAVRINOVIC, DARJUS 19:15 17 5/7 1/1 4/4   3 3 1     3   2 4 24
9 SALENGA, DAINIUS 24:45 15 6/8 1/3   2 1 3 2 2 1     2 3 18
10 TIMINSKAS, MINDAUGAS 16:00 11 2/4 2/3 1/2       2         2 2 9
11 SABONIS, ARVYDAS 26:45 14 3/6 2/3 2/2   12 12 5 2       3 3 29
12 COTA, ED 32:00 8 4/4       1 1 7 4 2     2 2 18
14 JAVTOKAS, ARTURAS 3:45           2 2     1     1    
15 SERAPINAS, SIMONAS 20:30 5 2/4 0/2 1/2 1   1   1     1 1 1 1
16 BAGATSKIS, AINARS 5:45 3 0/1 1/3         1         1    
Team                   3           3
Totals 200:00 95 29/48 9/18 10/17 9 24 33 21 13 5 4 2 20 21 125
        60.4% 50% 58.8%
Head coach: SIREIKA, ANTANAS
Min: Minutes played; Pts: Points; 2FG M-A: 2-point Field Goals (Made-Attempted); 3FG M-A: 3-point Field Goals (Made-Attempted); FT M-A: Free Throws (Made-Attempted); Rebounds: O (Offensive), D (Defensive), T (Total); As: Assists; St: Steals; To: Turnovers; Bl: Blocks (Fv: In Favor / Ag: Against); Fouls: Cm (Commited), Rv (Received); PIR: Performance Index Rating
Ulker
  Rebounds Blocks Fouls
# Player Min Pts 2FG 3FG FT O D T As St To Fv Ag Cm Rv PIR
4 ERDOGAN, SERKAN DNP - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
5 BOOKER, MELVIN 25:15 10 4/10 0/1 2/2 1 2 3 2 1 1     1 1 8
9 GULER, MURATCAN 21:15 8   2/3 2/2 3 2 5 1 1   2   2 2 16
11 ACIK, TUTKU 18:45 10 2/3 2/3 0/2       1   2     1 1 5
12 GONLUM, KEREM 16:30   0/1     3 1 4           4   -1
13 SOLAK, FATIH 12:45 2 0/1   2/2 1 2 3     4     5 1 -4
15 BLAIR, JOSEPH 36:00 11 5/11   1/2   5 5   1 1   1 1 2 9
20 NAUMOSKI, PETAR 34:45 17 3/6 3/8 2/3   2 2 3   3   1 3 4 10
21 VEKILOGLU, ARDA 7:15   0/3 0/1     1 1         1 2   -6
33 MRSIC, VELJKO 27:30 14 1/4   12/14 1 4 5 1   2   1 2 9 19
Team                   2           2
Totals 200:00 72 15/39 7/16 21/27 9 19 28 8 5 13 2 4 21 20 58
        38.5% 43.8% 77.8%
Head coach: ATAMAN, ERGIN
This game has no play by play yet

Head Coaches

SIREIKA, ANTANAS
Zalgiris
"Before the game, I was afraid that my players might lose the focus after they learned that Kutluay and Rentzias did not travel with Ulker. I talked to my players but my words reached them by just 50 percent. We defended very bad in the first period, then improved a little, but I was not happy with our performance even at the end, despite the large margin. We won because tonight we were the better team, but we did not play our game and that's bad."
ATAMAN, ERGIN
Ulker
"There were two different teams on the court. One, Zalgiris, was motivated and it is obvious, since they have chances to make it to the Final Four. Another, ours, was lacking motivation since we had already lost our chances at home. Also, we missed three key players - Kutluay, Rentzias, and Yildirim, while our young players in this situation played rather well for 33 or 34 minutes, trailing just by 12 to 13 points. But in the end Zalgiris's experience made the difference and hence the margin in the final score. Great game by Zalgiris, who ran a lot, and a good atmosphere in the stands."

Players

SABONIS, ARVYDAS
Zalgiris
"I stayed quite long on the court not because there was a special need for it. Just the coach wanted me to be there, and I actually enjoyed it. I always enjoy playing when my team wins."
LAVRINOVIC, DARJUS
Zalgiris
"I had already played some minutes in the Euroleague, but tonight I had enough court time to show that I can play at this level. This was a test for me, and I hope I have passed it. I did not feel any stress, and I hope this experience will be helpful to me in the important games we will have during the next two weeks."
NAUMOSKI, PETAR
Ulker
"We lost two important games, against Zalgiris and Pamesa, at home after having led by 11 and 19 points, respectively. That undermined our chances: when you lose such games, especially at home, you are out of the competition. Tonight we played well on offense but we could not restrain Zalgiris on fastbreaks. Zalgiris played a good game tonight and I wish them to go further until the Final Four."
MRSIC, VELJKO
Ulker
"I am happy that I returned to play in Kaunas, where I had played on Zalgiris, where people know the game well. Zalgiris now is a very good team, they have Sabonis and he makes any team different. It was great to play against him in what might be his last season. Zalgiris ran better than us, they were more athletic, and they had too many easy points. So with the players we had on the team tonight it was difficult for us to do better."
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