CSKA of Moscow has solidified its place in the Group C race tonight with a none-too-easy 86-80 over visiting Krka Novo Mesto of Slovenia. CSKA, playing without injured sharpshooter Gordan Giricek, the Euroleague's third-best scorer, had to fend off a late charge from Novo Mesto, which got an absolutely inspired performance from center Mate Skelin. An former CSKA player himself, Skelin dazzled the old crowd with 31 points and 19 rebounds. But with CSKA defense holding the league's top scorer to this point, Jaka Lakovic, to just 5 points, the crowd got what it came for. Point guard Curtis McCants got the better of Lakovic and led CSKA with 21 points. Mirsad Turkcan battled Skelin rebound for rebound and registered a fine double-double of 18 points and 14 rebounds. Alexander Petrenko added 17 and Zakhar Pachoutine 13 for the winners. As such, CSKA evened its record at 2-2 in Group C, while Novo Mesto fell to 1-3.
Krka looked very nervous to start the game, picking up fouls left and right without much reason behind them. The CSKA defense focused Jaka Lakovic, who picked up more fouls (2) than points (0) in the first few minutes. That forced Novo Mesto coach Ales Pipan to send the best scorer in the Euroleague to the bench after just 5 minutes, where he remained until late in the first half. By the time CSKA already had a lead to work with, 12-5, and worked to expand it, but Novo Mesto was no pushover. CSKA did a good job of defending everyone but Mate Skelin, its own former player. Skelin finished as the top scorer in the half with 13 points, which held his old team's lead to just 41-33. Skelin was also dominating the boards, but he had to deal with Turkcan, who was equal to the task of keeping his team honest on the inside.
The third period was the best of the night for CSKA. For the first 5 minutes they took off on a 10-3 run to push the lead to 51-36. The key to the defense was not letting Skelin feel so free under the baskets. The hosts got fastbreaking with McCants and Turkcan and pushed out to sizable leads, as high as 20 points, at 64-44. CSKA made the mistake of relaxing then and letting Skelin loose again. With easy inside baskets and second chances grabbed by Skelin, Novo Mesto worked its way back into the contest. Krka trimmed the lead to 68-52 heading into the final quarter and then to 70-60 with 8:00 left in the game. Two minutes later, Krka had the chance to break the 10-point barrier but didn't take advantage. Lakovic had only 5 points when he went off with an equal number of fouls. The comeback came up 6 points shy.
Thursday, November 1, 2001