DKV Joventut beat Snaidero Udine 77-69 on Tuesday night in a Group A duel that had two quite different sides to it. The first half was easy for the hosts, who led the guests by 17 points at the break, but the last two quarters saw the reaction of Udine, led by Damir Mulaomerovic, who could not finish the game after being hit in the face. Joventut took advantage of that to put the win away and retain their share of first place in Group A. The Spaniards improve their record to 3-1 with the victory while the Italians fall to 2-2. Juan Alberto Espil led the hosts with 23 points, including 6 of 10 three-pointers. Maceo Baston added 15 and Antonio Bueno went for the double-double of 11 points and 12 boards. For Udine, Mulaomerovic was the best man with 17 points, Michele Mian chipped in 14 and Alexander Vujacic bagged 12.
The first minutes of the duel were dominated by the hosts, who forced bad shots for Snaidero and ran with the rebounds to forge a 15-5 lead in minute 7. Maceo Baston and Antonio Bueno were the pillars in which Joventut based its game. Demetrius Alexander was the only Idine player who stayed at their level, until he sat on the bench due to his third foul early into the second quarter. A three by Juan Espil put the 22-7 on the scoreboard and then Zan Tabak stepped ou court for the first time after his injury. Joel Zachetti sparked the reaction of Udine with a three from downtown. But Joventut paced the game and moved the ball at ease on offense, and the balls ended in Espil's hands for another three for 25-10 after 15 minutes. The game entered a phase of complete domination by the hosts, who climbed ahead 32-16 based on 13 points of Espil up to that point. Trieste's problems could be seen in its poor shooting percentages, including 3 of 15 three-pointers attempted in the first half. Souley Drame slammed for Joventut as the lead reached 20 points, 36-16, just 30 seconds before the half. But Alexander Vujacic was able to hit a much-needed three to send Trieste into the lockerrooms down 38-21 but intent on a comeback.
Snaidero stepped back on court biting and trying to erase the deficit through Vujacic and Mian from the 6.25 line, and with a tough defense that forced turnovers on the Spaniards. The combo worked to pull the Italians within 42-34 after a 4-13 run. Nikola Radulovic tried to keep Juventut in the game on the offensive end, and Espil soon rejoined his continuing three-point shootout with 2 consecutive bombs from the arc which increased Joventut's lead to 14 points again, 52-38. Mulaomerovic decided to take responsibility for Udine, and moved the ball with efficiency, hitting a three-pointer and a buzzer-beater to knock the lead down to 54-47 after 30 minutes. Both teams were nervous and that showed at the beginning of the decisive period, in which neither scored for 3 minutes. Eventually, Mulaomerovic replied to 2 free throws by Joventut with an offensive rebound and a layup for 56-49. Espil would go on with his festival from the arc, while his teammates started getting to the free throw line often. Vujacic put in another three for 64-54 with4 minutes to go. A blow suffered by Mulaomerovic took him to the bench, and the hosts took advantage of the situation to improve to 68-56 quickly after a good transition ended with Radulovic slamming. The guests came back though with yet two more straight threes by Paul Burke and Mian for 68-62 and 2 minutes to go. Udine fouled quick and the hosts slightly increased the lead from the charity line, but 4 consecutive points by Mian cut the deficit down to 71-66 with 1 minute to go. Two free throws by Carles Marco for 73-66 put the Catalans in a safe place until the end of the game.
Tuesday, November 5, 2002