Say hello to one of the big surprises of the Uleb Cup Week 2! The Ricoh Astronauts of Amsterdam came from 14 down in the second half to conquer Cholet of France with a loud 72-74 road win capped by a buzzer-beater from Chris "Mighty Mouse" McGuthrie, one of the smallest players in the league. The victory lifted Astronauts to 1-1, while Cholet fell to 0-2 in Group D. Astronauts believed in themselves all the way, and thanks to a great 1-13 run to finish the third quarter, had the confidence to manage the tigh finish until McGuthrie's big shot. Mindaugas Burneika led the winners with 14 points, McGuthrie and Joe Spinks added 13 each. There was no luck for Cholet guard Tony Stanley, who led all scorers with 19 points, nor for K'Zell Wesson, who was top rebounder with 15, giving him a double-double figure thanks to his 13 points. Cholet led throughout the first two quarters, thanks to full speed basketball. The French League leaders exploited the great job beneath the basket byWesson, who dominated the boards, grabbing 11 rebounds to go with 6 points in the first 20 minutes. Guards Scooter Barry and Stanley enjoyed themselves in open court situations, pushing Cholet to leads that reached 10 point, 38-28, with 3 minutes to go in the second quarter. But even when Cholet tried to run and forward Deron Hayes could not miss on his first 4 shots, Astronauts played good defense otherwise and kept the score close. The Dutch team played smart, keeping the tempo from getting out of control and getting the ball in good spots to Spinks and Burneika, who combined for 18 points. Cholet's led by just 5 points, 42-37, at the half.
Pushed by the home crowd, Cholet tried to give the decisive hit in the third quarter, hitting big shots with ease over 3 minutes to amass a 56-42 advantage. But as they had already done a week earlier against KK Zadar, Astronauts showed great pride and were able to outscore Cholet 1-13 in the last 3 minutes of the quarter to step back into the game at 57-55 after 30 minutes. Everything was still to be decided on court. The guests tied the score at 57 with the first possession of the final quarter, and then took their first important lead of the game at 59-60. The remaining 7 minutes of the quarter were an breathtaking thriller, with teams alternatively leading by one point. Things seemed to go in Cholet's favor as the hosts led 72-69 with 1 minute, 30 seconds left, but Astronauts were able to steal and score the 3 points needed to tie the score on a three-pointer with about 40 seconds left. Cholet wasted the last possession, and with 10 seconds remaining, Astronauts had the unrepeatable chance to get an unexpected road win. McGuthrie did not waste it the opportunity, but sank the winning jumper, to give Dutch fans a huge smile.
Tuesday, October 22, 2002