The dramatic rivalry that has developed in the last half-year between AEK and Tau Ceramica has lived another thrilling chapter in Athens on Wednesday. Host AEK came back from 12 points down late in the third quarter to win 85-82 in overtime against its Spanish visitors. Tau is now 2-1 in Group D, with its only loss having come in overtime on opening night. Tau drops to 1-2, with a pair of overtime losses. With Tau forward Luis Scola (27 points) taking over the middle quarters, AEK found itself fown 12 on its own floor, 47-62, late in the third. The comeback started with a 6-0 run sparked by J.R. Holden and ended with 1 minute remaining when Mikalis Kakiouzis tied it for AEK. It took Laurent Foirest of Tau scoring four points in the final 10 seconds to send the game to OT, where and continued until Nikos Zizis (9 points) put AEK ahead for good. Zizis had missed a free throw that allowed Foirest to tie the game earlier, but this time AEK guarded its advantage at the foulline and escaped with a huge comeback victory.
Led by J.R. Holden, who scored 7 points in the first quarter, and Andrew Betts, who added 5, AEK managed to take an 18-13 lead. The home team enjoyed the added benefit of seeing Tau big men Dejan Tomasevic and Fabricio Oberto called for two early personal fouls. AEK could not take advantage down the stretch, however. By simply scoring a bucket and holding AEK to no more, Tau pulled within 18-15 when the quarter ended and gave the impression of a team ready to recover quickly. That's when Tau point guard Elmer Bennett decided to drive his team, the way he usually does, on an 0-6 run that took Tau to its first lead, at 18-21. Bennett hit another three-pointer to make it 20-24 and that was the starting point for the dominance of the Spanish team. Luis Scola, with his abilities to perform both in inside and outside game, caused a lot of serious problems to AEK defense, which wasn't as hard-working as usual. The Bennett- cola tandem finished the first half with a total of 22 points - 10 and 12, respectively - and didn't permit AEK to take advantage of the poor game by Tomasevic and Oberto, now up to three fouls each. Scola opened the gap to eight points (30-38) with 1:20 left until the half and Chris Corchiani boosted Tau to nine-point lead, 32-41, going into intermission.
Scola was fascinating in the third quarter as he proved unstoppable to any defense that Dragan Sakota might use and gave Tau absolute control of the game. The visitors opened up the tempo and the margin, as well, to 40-52 after 25 minutes, with Scola using his excellent post-up game to confound Dimos Dikoudis and Jim Bilba. Mindaugas Timinskas scored a three-point play that made it 42-55, but the story was still all Scola. He was up to 25 points in only 28 minutes as the gap opened to 15 points, 47-62. Holden returned to his scoring and helped AEK to a 6-0 run that cut the deficit to 53-62 at the end of the third quarter. By that time Dikoudis, Oberto and Tomasevic had already committed four fouls each.
Wednesday, October 24, 2001