Despite the absence of regular season MVP Joseph Blair and any motivation other than pride, Ulker of Istanbul took an 82-86 overtime victory in Bologna against Skipper on Wednesday to close out the season for both Group E teams. Skipper played without injured Lubos Barton, Carlos Delfino and Tomas Van Den Spiegel, but neither team used excuses to lose, but rather fought each other for 45 minutes. Ulker closes with a 2-4 record, while Skipper finished 3-3. Melvin Booker led the guests with 18 points. He followed by Miljan Goljovic with 17 and Zaza Pachulia with 13. Gianluca Basile led Skipper with 23 points, followed by Gianmarco Pozzecco, who hit 14 and Giacomo Galanda, who added 10.
Robert Fultz started for Skipper at poit guard opposite Ulker veteran Melvin Booker. Ulker, without injured center Joseph Blair, again lined up Zaza Pachulia, the Euroleague MVP of last week. Skipper took an early 3-0 lead, but Haluk Yildirim tied with a three-pointer. Skipper's defense sparked a 5-0 run now but Booker kept Ulker within 8-5 with a layup. Ulker was taking offensive rebounds, difficult agains Skipper, and those second chances were good enough for a pair of baskets, by Booker again and Virginijus Praskevicius, and an 8-9 lead. After a Skipper timeout and another tie, Ulker captain Harun Erdenay gave his team an 11-14. Gianmarco Pozzecco assisted Gianluca Basile for a three that re-tied it 14-14. Youngsters Stefano Mancinelli and newcomer Patricio Prato helped Skipper complete a 5-0 run to lead 16-14. Miljan Goljovic returned the favor for Ulker from downtown, retaking a 16-17 lead for the Turks. Ulker switched to zone defense and stole the final possession, which Booker converted with a pick-and-roll for a 16-19 visitors' lead after 10 minutes.
Pozzecco dished a couple of assists inside the paint to open the second quarter, while Ulker went to Goljovic to get back a 20-21 lead. Erdenay added a triple to it. Emilio Kovacic assisted Prato on his first basket in Bologna. Skipper lacked defensive intensity and Kerem Gonlum took advantage with an uncontested dunk. Soon, Tuktu Acik put a three-pointer through for 25-29 that grew to 25-32 with 3 points by Gonlum. Basile stopped Skipper's slide with a triple, but Goljovic answered with a jumper and Pachulia tapped in a rebound for Ulker's biggest lead, 28-36. Fultz hit a three-pointer and another jumper to erase most of the deficit before Gonlum's free throws set the scoreboard at 33-37. Skipper switched to zone for its last defensive play, but Goljovic hit from the perimeter and gave Ulker 6 points to defend at halftime, 33-39.
Basile hit a hookshot to open the second half, but Skipper was not able to exploit a couple off-balance misses by Ulker. Acik stole, was fouled and converted it with a couple of free throws before Gonlum hit from the corner for a lead of 6 points, 37-43. Skipper had points only by Basile from the field, while Ulker was running away again. AJ Guyton hit a three-pointer that stopped the slide (42-46), but Serkan Erdogan responded in kind. Booker stole and ran the break for a layup, then Pachulia added a bucket and the lead was into double-digits, 42-53. Skipper had to respond forcefully now, and did. Galanda and Mancinelli stopped the slide with a couple of free throws, then Kovacic landed a hook shot as the hosts got back within 50-55 after 30 minutes.
Kovacic made a dunk to open the fourth quarter, which lit up PalaDozza again. Goljovic responded with a three-pointer, but Skipper completed the comeback with Pozzecco's 5 points to tie 60-60. After a long series of missed shots and turnovers, Praskevicius hit a basket-plus-foul that gave back Ulker the lead, but Kovacic grabbed an offensive rebound and shortened the gap at 62-63. Soon, Basile was tying it again with a three and Kovacic putting Skipper ahead from the foul line, 68-67. Pachulia made another dunk, however, and then Booker's layup had Ulker in charge at 68-71. However, Galanda's hook shot got Skipper closer, and then, following a steal with 42 seconds left, Pozzecco hit a three-pointer with 25 seconds left that put Skipper ahead 73-71. Booker tied with 4 seconds left at 73-73, and but after a Skipper turnover, missed the last attempt for Ulker, sending the game to overtime.
Ulker took a quick, two-point lead in OT and kept it for a couple minutes, when Acik added 2 free throws. Basile also scored from the line, but Ulker led almost throughout the extra time. Guyton suffered a turnover for Skipper, while Ulker was leading 77-80, but the guests missed 2 match-point attempts. Guyton's free throw with 29 seconds left helped Skipper, but Acik was fouled by Fultz with 18 seconds to play. The Turkish point guard's hands were calm from the line, just as Booker was when the free throw lottery finished with Ulker getting its second win, 82-86, to finish the Top 16 for both teams.
Wednesday, April 16, 2003