2017-18Final FourSEMIFINAL B
May 18, 2018 CET: 18:00
Local time: 18:00 STARK ARENA

Muhammed sparks Fenerbahce to semifinal victory over Zalgiris

Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul held off three comeback attempts from Zalgiris Kaunas to register a 76-67 victory in the first semifinal of the 2018 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four on Friday night at Stark Arena in Belgrade, Serbia. In doing so, Fenerbahce earned the right to defend its title in Sunday's championship game against the winner of the second semifinal between CSKA Moscow and Real Madrid. Ali Muhammed scored 10 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter to spark Fenerbahce to victory. Luigi Datome added 16 points and Kostas Sloukas had 14 as the Fenerbahce reserves outscored their counterparts 53-22. Nicolo Melli played a key role too with 6 assists and 5 steals. Fenerbahce set a season-high with 13 steals. Kevin Pangos paced Zalgiris with 16 points, but also committed a career-high 5 turnovers. Brandon Davies shined with 12 points and 11 rebounds and Aaron White scored 10 in defeat. Fenerbahce led from start to finish with the biggest lead being 13 in the third quarter. Zalgiris responded with a 0-11 run and was again within 2 early in the fourth quarter before Muhammed heated up and helped put the game away. Zalgiris outrebounded Fenerbahce 22-37, but was undone by its uncharacteristically-low three-point shooting (2 for 10) and committing 20 turnovers.


Zalgiris struggled to score early as Fenerbahce's aggressive defense limited the Lithuanian champs to just 1 point - a free throw by Kevin Pangos - in the first four minutes. Meanwhile, Wanamaker scored twice in penetration, Jan Vesely split free throws and Ahmet Duverioglu added a put-back slam for a 7-1 Fenerbahce lead. Pangos hit a baseline jumper and free throws by Edgaras Ulanovas brought Zalgiris within 7-5. Ali Muhammed struck from downtown and Sloukas added free throws, but Aaron White and Pangos kept Zalgiris as close. Datome scored in penetration and bettered Antanas Kavaliauskas's layup with a corner three-pointer. Paulius Jankunas made foul shots, but Wanamaker scored again for a 19-13 Fenerbahce lead after 10 minutes. A red-hot Datome followed a fast break layup with a bomb from beyond the arc early in the second quarter, but Axel Toupane and Vasilije Micic brought Zalgiris within 24-18. Beno Udrih found his first points on a stop-and-pop jumper before consecutive layups by Duverioglu and Sloukas forced Zalgiris to call timeout down 28-20. A big block by Datome allowed Vesely to dunk at the other end and make it a double-digit game. Vesely dunked again to cap an 8-0 run. Pangos stepped up with free throws and a driving layup. Vesely made foul shots and Datome added a jumper, but White took over with an off-balance layup and Davies added a three-point play and a tip-in to bring Zalgiris within 6. A layup by Muhammed and a big dunk by White fixed the halftime score at 39-33.

Zalgiris improved its defense after the break and held Fenerbahce scoreless for more than two minutes. Meanwhile, an electric driving layup by Pangos made it a 4-point game. Nicolo Melli rescued his team with a two-handed dunk and Sloukas added a jumper that established a 43-35 Fenerbahce margin. Micic downed a jumper off a spin move, but Sloukas scored again and a three-pointer by Wanamaker forced Zalgiris to stop the game at 48-37. Nikola Kalinic shined with a backdoor layup off his team's 12th steal - a season-high - but a three-pointer by Ulanovas and a jumper by Toupane kept Zalgiris within 50-42. Kavaliauskas scored around the basket and split free throws in a 0-11 run that Pangos capped with a wild triple. Muhammed scored in penetration off a Fenerbahce timeout and erased White's layup with a buzzer-beating basket that gave his team some fresh air, 54-50, after 30 minutes. Davies scored around the rim early in the fourth quarter, but a jumper by Datome and back-to-back three-pointers by an unstoppable Muhammed restored a double-digit lead, 62-52. Davies dunked off a Zalgiris timeout but Melli answered with a big basket and Muhammed hit a floater for a 66-54 Fenerbahce margin. Jankunas hit his trademark mid-range shot and Pangos copied him for a 66-58 score with less than six minutes left. Ulanovas capped a 0-6 run with a jump hook, but Datome stepped up with a driving layup. Free throws by Toupane and White gave Zalgiris a chance at 68-62 with 2:37 left. Sloukas followed suit as he also split two free throws for a 69-62 lead. Pangos also could only get one free throw to fall at the other end with Ali making Zalgiris pay for it with a baseline jumper to make it 71-63. The nerves got the best of the teams over the next few possessions with five turnovers over a six-possession stretch before Davies converted a three-point play to trim the gap to 71-66. Sloukas answered with a layup and then followed it with a three-pointer after yet another Zalgiris turnover and Fenerbahce went up 76-66 to decide the game for good.

Ali Muhammed - Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul - Belgrade 2018 - EB17
Friday, May 18, 2018
Attendance: 16967
By Quarter1234
Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul19201522
Zalgiris Kaunas13201717
End of Quarter1234
Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul19395476
Zalgiris Kaunas13335067
Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul
  Rebounds Blocks Fouls
# Player Min Pts 2FG 3FG FT O D T As St To Fv Ag Cm Rv PIR
1 THOMPSON, JASON 9:09   0/1       2 2           4   -3
4 MELLI, NICOLO 31:02 4 2/4 0/1   2 1 3 6 5       4 3 14
10 MAHMUTOGLU, MELIH DNP - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
11 WANAMAKER, BRAD 20:11 9 3/5 1/3     1 1 3 1 3     2 1 6
16 SLOUKAS, KOSTAS 23:26 14 4/7 1/3 3/4   1 1 3 1 3     1 4 13
21 NUNNALLY, JAMES 8:19   0/1 0/1         1 1       2   -2
23 GUDURIC, MARKO 11:09   0/1 0/1         1         2 2 -1
24 VESELY, JAN 27:09 8 2/7   4/6 2 1 3   2 1   1 4 5 5
33 KALINIC, NIKOLA 22:43 2 1/1 0/1     1 1 2   1     2 2 3
35 MUHAMMED, ALI 11:48 19 5/5 3/6     1 1             1 18
44 DUVERIOGLU, AHMET 8:43 4 2/3   0/1 2 3 5   1 1   1 2 1 5
70 DATOME, LUIGI 26:21 16 5/7 2/2   1 1 2   2 1 3   4   16
Team           2 1 3               3
Totals 200:00 76 24/42 7/18 7/11 9 13 22 16 13 10 3 2 27 19 77
        57.1% 38.9% 63.6%
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
Zalgiris Kaunas
  Rebounds Blocks Fouls
# Player Min Pts 2FG 3FG FT O D T As St To Fv Ag Cm Rv PIR
0 DAVIES, BRANDON 25:00 12 5/10   2/2 5 6 11 2 1 4     3 7 21
3 PANGOS, KEVIN 32:15 16 4/6 1/2 5/8   5 5 4 1 5     2 7 20
6 TOUPANE, AXEL 14:24 6 1/3 0/1 4/6   1 1 1   1     2 3 3
9 UDRIH, BENO 7:41 2 1/1 0/1   1   1           1   1
13 JANKUNAS, PAULIUS 19:45 4 1/4 0/1 2/2 2 2 4     1 1   2 1 3
19 SAJUS, MARTYNAS DNP - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
21 MILAKNIS, ARTURAS 19:14   0/1 0/1         1             -1
22 MICIC, VASILIJE 18:56 5 2/3 0/1 1/1 1   1 4 2 5   1 4 3 3
30 WHITE, AARON 20:54 10 4/5 0/1 2/4 2 4 6   1 1 1   1 2 14
44 KAVALIAUSKAS, ANTANAS 13:34 5 2/5   1/2 1 1 2 1   1   2 3 1 -1
66 VALINSKAS, PAULIUS DNP - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
92 ULANOVAS, EDGARAS 28:17 7 1/2 1/2 2/2 1 2 3     2     1 3 8
Team           3   3               3
Totals 200:00 67 21/40 2/10 19/27 16 21 37 13 5 20 2 3 19 27 74
        52.5% 20% 70.4%

Head Coaches

Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul

"We tried to prepare the game the best of way we could. We know very well the character they have. Something happened today that is the character of their coach. They always fight until the end. We were ready for that too. Finally, I think we deserved to be in the final. We beat an excellent team. I am very happy for my players, we are very happy to be in the final for the third consecutive year.

"The respect within the team is something that is very important for us. I want to thank all my players and all the people who came from Turkey to support us. They are an important part of what we are. It was a great atmosphere and thank you also to the fans of Zalgiris.

"In the first half we played very good. We forced them to have 12 turnovers at the half. That means we really worked. Zalgiris is always a team that comes back. I was really happy. [We had] two or three situations defensively that we were wrong. The problem was more offensively. Sometimes we played very slow. I believe we have enough quality to play even better.

"I know that everybody talks about [Ali Muhammed] and some people are surprised that he hasn’t played. I was sure that he would play. You could see in his eyes that he would play. Incredible that he scored 12 points in 11 minutes. But that is [Muhammed]. Not many people have a character like [Muhammed]."

Zalgiris Kaunas

"Congrats to Fener and to Zeljko. It was a strange game. I think the best word to explain what happened is that we froze a little bit, we probably got a little overwhelmed with the atmosphere. I didn't expect us to play a great basketball game or beautiful basketball, but I thought we could play with control.
"I think they really focused on our point guards and got us out of our game. Despite all of that, we know what type of team we have, but in the end Bobby Dixon is an X-factor. We could have been a lot more aggressive with him.
"Despite all this, congratulations to my team. We achieved big things, but we are not done. We have one more game and we want to win it. Our execution was not good as you can see with 20 turnovers. You can see that we were a little bit in a hurry. We were not clear in our head. Our team has to go through things like this, but in the future we will be even better at the highest stage."


Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul
"It is a great feeling to get this win. We obviously have one more, but it was good for our guys to set the tone early on. This is not like in the playoffs where you have other games, it is win or go home. I liked how we played from start to finish. We had many deflections on defense tonight, got loose balls, forced a lot of steals and turnovers, and coach talked a lot about that before this game. We made it tough for their offense. From the first day of training camp you want to be here, and you don’t want to just be here. You want to win. We knew how important this was and it was good to see we came out with a game like that on defense in such an important game."
Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul
"This is very important. I am very proud of this team that from the first day we set a goal and I can say that Fenerbahce in recent years is one of two best teams in Europe. We have quality, we have a plan, we have a good coach and good players. It is difficult in these kinds of games to play your best game. But it is important to fight from the first minute until the last second. We did a good job today. In certain moments we lost our mind, but in general did a good job and won against a very good team like Zalgiris. We stuck to our plan and did what we have been doing all season. We played good defense, put pressure on them and we deserve to be in the final."
Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul
"We expected it to be a very hard game. Zalgiris is a very good and tough team. I am just happy we were able to withstand their run, and I was happy to help the team get the win. I was just looking for my shot. I have done that before in a lot of games, I was just trying to spark my team. Experience is everything, it is not easy to play on the big stage like this. We were here before, we knew what to expect. There was a lot of yellow in the arena. We felt comfortable, like it was a home game."
Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul
"They came back for one moment, but we stayed the course and stayed positive. Players made the correct decisions and we kept the lead. When you have been there already in important games, you know how to stay calm, trust the system, trust your teammates. You already did it and experience helps. It is not the only thing, but it helps. We always try to play very good defense. We were the best defensive team in the league. We knew the key was to be aggressive and physical. To put pressure on them. It is not easy to do it all 40 minutes, they are also a very good team, but I think the ratio of our turnovers and steals was very important for us."
Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul
"They were coming back, but we just kept calm. Ali Muhammed hit few tough baskets, which broke their legs and we kept a handle on the game. I have scratches on my arms, but I think they have scratches on theirs, too. That's a Final Four game. It was exciting for my first game. You work really hard your entire career to be here. I was a bit nervous, but in the right quantity. I am happy for the win and on Sunday will try to get another one."
Zalgiris Kaunas
"We made a lot of mistakes. I wish we could take those back, especially in the first half. As bad as we were playing, we kept fighting, stayed with it and still had a chance. Third place means a lot more than fourth place, so we'll come ready to fight. We're definitely proud of what we did to get to this point. We have to approach this third place game as a new way to continue improving our season." 
Zalgiris Kaunas
"We had many turnovers. We could have avoided that, but they played great defense. It's how you win these games I guess. We will now play for the fans that came here. We want to be focused and get that third place. Fenerbahce played hard, really hard defense and I think that gave them the game."
Zalgiris Kaunas
"Especially in the first half we had a lot of turnovers. In the second half we calmed down a bit, and we came closer especially at the start of the second half. Unfortunately it did not work out for us. Those turnovers in the first half hurt us. They are an experienced team, they knew we would come back. But they calmed down a bit and hit a couple of big shots. You have to give them props. It was a great atmosphere, it always is. We had good support from the fans and we are grateful for that. They are our sixth player all season and they did not disappoint tonight."