The hot hand of Rudy Fernandez led DKV Joventut to an 83-73 home win over Cibona Zagreb in Group B on Thursday. Cibona was strong inside at the beginning, but when Martn Bader committed his third foul in the first period, things changed completely. Fernandez, who was doubtful before the game, drilled 4-of-7 triples and put Joventut ahead for good. The hosts improved to a 3-3 record in Group B, the same record as Cibona after the loss. Both share third place with Partizan. Fernandez led the hosts with a season-high 22 points, while Charles Gaines, Elmer Bennett and Robert Archibald added 12 each. Archibald also grabbed 8 rebounds. Brent Wright was stellar for Cibona with 20 points and 14 rebounds, Goran Vrbanc posted 15 on 4-of-7 threes, Davor Kus had 11 and Marton Bader added 10.
Wright and Bader scored on the offensive glass to give the visitors an early lead, which Bader stretched to 0-7 with a three-point play. Robert Archibald finally put an offensive rebound in himself in and Drew Sullivan posted a three-point play to get Joventut back into the game. Goran Vrbanc hit the first triple of the game and Davor Kus soon joined him as Cibona's offense found easy ways to score, even if the shots didn't always go in. Joventut broke the visitors' defense to make it 9-13. Bader became Cibona's main offensive weapon underneath as he Wright dominated the rebounds. Joventut made a double substitution, bringing in Rudy Fernandez and Dmitry Flis as coach Aito Garcia tried to stop the Zagreb avalanche. Fernandez started with two free throws as the hosts pulled within 13-15, but Bader was still strong in the paint and he drew a foul and added two free throws of his own. Fernandez fired in a three from the corner, and when Flis received the ball inside on the following play, Bader committed his third foul, going to the bench after that. Vrbanc nailed a three, but Fernandez finished an alley-oop from Linho Huertas for an 18-22 score after 10 minutes.
Vrbanc opened the second quarter with another three, but Joventut replied with a 7-0 run via seven free throws to tie the score at 25-25. A technical foul on Jamal McCullough allowed Joventut to jump ahead for the first time thanks to four free throws from Elmer Bennett and another from Sullivan, making it 11 straight free throws for the hosts and a 30-25 lead. Marijan Mance broke the spell for Cibona with a three, to which Charles Gaines replied with a three-point play. Bennett fed Sullivan for an alley-oop, but Kus went to the line for three free throws and a 35-33 Joventut edge. However, Fernandez was on fire, and he pulled the defensive rebound and finished on the other end with a triple to put Joventut up 6. The hosts' defense now found a way to stop Cibona, forcing the visitors to shoot at the end of the shot clock. With a couple of fastbreaks by Bennett and Huertas, Joventut forged a 43-34 lead and coasted to 45-36 at halftime.
Bennett opened the second half by giving Joventut its first double-digit lead, 47-36, but Kus hit a triple to get Cibona going. Fernandez scored as Joventut kept running, much to the despair of Cibona's defense. Wright succeeded in two open situations in the paint to pull Cibona to 56-51 after McCullough's layup. Gaines gave Joventut some air and Ricky Rubio stole the ball and fed it to Huertas as the hosts escaped again to 61-51. Wright was still the only solid option for Cibona on offense and soon Kus joined him from the charity line, but every time that the visitors got close, Fernandez was there with a three and Ferran Laviña added another one to close the third quarter with a 67-57 Joventut edge.
McCullough got Cibona going in the last period, but Fernandez blasted his fourth triple to make it 70-59. Both teams looked inside now to get points, as Wright made it 72-63, but Laviña was fed underneath by Robert Archibald to preserve the double-digit edge. Defenses forced turnovers on each side until Cibona got points from Vrbanc again on a triple to trim the deficit to 76-69. Two more free throws by Wright were matched by Fernandez's jumper to make it 79-71 with two minutes to go. Marin Rozic's unsportsmanlike foul after Rubio's steal allowed the kid to hit two free throws for a 10-point lead with a minute left. Cibona tried to stop the clock with fouls, but Bennett didn't miss, securing Joventut's third win of the season.
Thursday, November 30, 2006