Skipper, a team on the rise in Group A, kept its momentum intact on Wednesday by defeating AEK 82-76 at home in Bologna. The victory was good enough to raise Skipper's record to 2-1, while the Greek champions fall into a bit of danger at 0-3 in the standings. Lubos Barton continued to impress for the winners, leading Skipper with 18 points Giacomo Galanda followed him with 17, including 15 as Skipper took control in the first half. Carolos Delfino added 12 points, Gianmarco Pozzecco 13 and Emilio Kovacic 10 for Skipper. Galanda, Kovacic and last week's MVP, Mate Skelin (10 rebounds) helped Skipper dominate the boards, 44-30. AEK got a big game from Mikalis Kakiouzis with 20 points. Nikos Hatzis added 13, Christos Tapoutos and Nikos Zizis 11 each.
Without captain Gianluca Basile and guard Vlado Scepanovic, both injured, Skipper got an early boost from Pozzecco, who pushed the tempo, and Galanda, whose 7 points gave Skipper a first important lead, 13-8. AEK stayed close by exploting its flex offence for baskets by Kakiouzis and Vassilis Kikilias to pull within 13-12. But Galanda kept on hitting threes in transition, and when Barton lit up the arena with a great blocked shot and 6 points in a row, Skipper ran ahead 22-12. On his first possession after replacing Pozzecco, Roberto Fultz sank an open three. Fortitudo did not decrease its defensive intensity, and only center Andrew Betts found points for AEK, but Skipper's advantage opened to 27-14 just the same. Tapoutos stopped the bleeding for the guests, but Skipper still led by 13, 29-16, after 10 minutes.
At the beginning of the second quarter, AEK was back with 2-7 run thanks to half court basketball and points scored by Tapoutos and Giorgos Tsiaras (31-23). Galanda was on fire, however, and sank a triple for 15 points, but that was only Skipper's second basket in 6 minutes. And now Galanda was in foul trouble, called for his third about 4 minutes before halftime. Kovacic came back and that let AEK's big men stay inside, where they kept a lid on Skelin working the post and helped on and Pozzecco's drives. AEK was clearly back after a dunk by Tapoutos as a 2-3 zone defense allowed the guest to cut the score to 34-29 about 2 minutes before the half. Barton now got behind the zone for a great dunk then reversed a slam on the break, negating 6 points by Hatzis of AEK. Tapoutos and Hatzis were able to sink a triple each, however, to keep AEK close at 40-32 after 20 minutes.
Delfino and Fultz rang down three-pointers as Skipper upheld double-digit leads early in the the third quarter. Kakiouzis kept AEK from sinking further behind. Skipper had the offensive rebounds of Barton going for it, however, and the score was 52-42 when Skipper boss Matteo Boniciolli put back Pozzecco and the game changed once again. Skipper ran away to a 57-42 advantage on the point guard's two-plus-one, then the hosts lengthened that to 62-44 with 1 minute to go. Zisis reduced that by 5 points, but Skipper still went into the final quarter comfortably ahead, 63-49.
True to its reputation, AEK did not give up the fight. Triples by Hatzis and Kakiouzis, and a layup by Tapoutos slashed Skipper's lead to 8 points, 69-61, with 7 minutes to go. Kakiouzis had another huge steal, but AEK could not capitalize and soon Skipper was back up by 10 points, 71-61. Another AEK comeback attempt came with 3 minutes to go on a Zisis layup that made it 73-65. Pozzecco answered that with 2 free throws, but Kakiouzis scored the jumper and a free throw, then Hatzis a layup that made it 77-72 with 1 minute, 10 seconds left. Pozzecco, at the line, missed 1 of 2 freebies, and Zisis made it pay with triple at 23 seconds. The score was down to 78-75. The free throw lottery saw Barton make both of his, Kakiouzis miss one and Delfino ice the result by making 2 of his own.
Wednesday, October 23, 2002