Ulker of Istanbul joined the ranks of the fast starters on Thursday by winning at Zalgiris Kaunus of Lithuania, where the 79-82 final score says it all about how close these Group B rivals fought each other. Miljan Goljovic led the winners with 18 points and kept his team in the game in the first half, while Quadre Lollis had a double-double of 15 points and 16 rebounds, the latter of which helped Ulker control the game down the stretch. The honor of hitting the big shot was left to veteran Harun Erdenay, whose three-pointer with about 1 minute to play settled the matter. Ulker flies out to a 2-0 start in the group, while Zalgiris falls to 2-0. Donatas Slanina and Grygorij Hiznjak topped the Zalgiris scorers with 21 points and 20, respectively.
Before the game, a Swiss watch company awarded Zalgiris players with best of their product, wishing they would be as precise as the timepieces. In the first quarter, the host team seemed to have understood the message, opening with a huge three-pointer by Donatas Slanina that put more than 3,000 Kaunas fans in the mood. With Giedrius Gustas running the point and Steve Woodberry as shooting guard, Zalgiris started much faster than it had a week earlier at Kinder Bologna, taking an early 6-1 lead thanks also to two tremendous blocks by Hiznjak. Quadre Lollis answered with a three-point play, but Woodberry and Slanina poured in their own baskets for a 10-4 lead. Lollis and Pars worked to close the gap to 10-13 for Ulker. After a Zalgiris timeout, however, the home team surged ahead again to lead 19-14 at the end of 10 minutes.
Ulker used a halfcourt press, but it backfired as Kestius Marciulionis asssisted Hiznjak and Dainius Salenga for two tremendous slam dunks. Slanina drove coast-to-coast for a 31-20 Zalgiris lead. Hot hands now emerged from the Turkish squad, however, with Erdenay, Roberts Stelmahers and Goljovic replying with a great 8-0 run. That erased all the hosts' early effort, reducing the gap to a mere three points, 31-28, with 4:20 left until the half. Goljovic was unstoppable as he rose up and nailed a three-pointer that tied it at 33-33. The Goljovic show continued and just Salenga's three and a Marciulionis two-pointer saved a 38-37 advantage for Zalgiris after such a good start.
The third quarter started again with two Hiznjak blocks, while Goljovic continued hot. Erdenay and Slanina traded three-pointers, big punches in a game that already looked like it was going to be decided late. Hiznjak continued his great job on D, but his teammates were left gasping as Asim Pars hit a tremendous dunk for a 47-49 Ulker advantage. In the middle of the quarter Tutku Acik hit five straight points, but Andrius Jurkunas and Slanina answer with three each and take back Zalgiris in the lead 55-54. Zalgiris set a zone defense that Erdenay punished immediately with a three, yet Zalgiris holds on for a slim 63-62 edge at quarter's end.
Hiznjak is now somewhat slower due to tiredness, but on blocks he is well-replaced by Jurkunas, who rejectets two shots. Ulker has Lollis, however, the protagonist of the second half of the game in place of Goljovic, the first-half surprise. Jurkunas fouled out with 3 minutes to go trying to contain Lollis. A thrilling finish ensued as Woodberry saves a possession with a three-point play and Zalgiris seized the lead 79-77. But an old pro is on the floor, Erdenay, and when he steps up and nets a three-pointer, the visitors are on their way to victory.
Thursday, October 18, 2001