Ulker of Istanbul finally achieved its goal of a victory in the Top 16 by winning 96-91 at home on Thursday and nixing any slight chance that visiting CSKA Moscow might have had of making the Final Four. Ulker ends its Euroleague Top 16 run at 1-5, in the bottom of Group H, while CSKA finished 3-3 two weeks after having held the group's Final Four berth in its power. CSKA was hoping for a miracle going in - threw everything they had to win by the necessary 43 points, but it wasn't enough against an Ulker squad that finally played like the team that qualified for the Top 16 two months earlier. Asim Pars and Miljan Goljovic scored 22 points each and Haluk Yildirim scored 18 for Ulker, which lost its previous game by ruling of the Euroleague disciplinary judge after it did not go to Israel to play Maccabi. For CSKA, Mirsad Turkcan and Gordon Giricek scored 22 points each and Ruben Wolkowsky added 17 to end a season that had some very high points, but crashed in a home loss to Tau Ceramica a week ago, when a victory would have clinched a place in the Final Four for the Russians.
Ulker came out with its scoring hand ready in the first period and threw down 30 points on an unsuspectiong CSKA defense. Pars and Kerem Gonlum did good job inside the paint for Ulker, while CSKA tried to keep in it with the good effort from Giricek. The two teams went head-to-head until the fifth minute, when Ulker came up with consecutive three-pointer from Tutku Acik and Haluk Yildirim. Soon, Goljovic's inside basket to give Ulker a seven-point lead, 30-23, at the end of 10 minutes.
Early in the second quarter, Ulker lengthened its lead to 12 points, 41-29, on another Acik three-pointer. But the home side started to have problems on defense inside after Pars got his third foul and left the court. Ruben Wolkowsky got going with Alexander Petrenko on the inside for CSKA, and they helped reduce the difference to a single point, 43-42. In the final minute, however, Ulker was able to bump the lead back up to 6 for a 50-44 scoreboard at the half.
In the third period, the new American center of Ulker, Isaac Austin started to show his stuff. He scored consecutive three-pointers to give Ulker another nine-point lead, 63-54. CSKA Moscow's zone defence changed nothing in the rest of the third period, which ended with the locals holding onto a 77-71 lead.
Ulker controlled the match in the fourth period, too. Despite leading in rebounds in the absence of Ulker's main boardman Quadre Lollis, CSKA Moscow couldn't solve its defensive problems. Pars, Acik and Yildirim kept Ulker ahead. Yildirim's 6.25-meter shot made it 84-72 before a little spurt of CSKA defense changed the mood in the last five minutes. One-on-one pressure defense saw results as CSKA almost caught Ulker on with Turkcan's technical foul shot that made it 90-89 with under 4 minutes left. Yildirim answered, however, with another three. Turkcan got CSKA back within 93-91 before Robert Stelmahers and Austin finished matters, not to mention the Euroleague season for both teams, at the free throw line.
Thursday, April 18, 2002
Gokhan Ture, Istanbul