If anyone ever doubted it before, Opel Skyliners of Frankfurt are certainly for real after raising their Gruop B record to 4-1 with a 74-70 comeback victory at home over powerful Ulker Istanbul. Opel was down 12 at the half, but used a killer defense, its home crowd and a collective offensive effort to move past the Turkish champions in the Group B standings. Chad Austin led five Opel scorers in double figures with 19 points. Marcus Goree with 15, Virgil Stanescu with 13, Pascal Roller and Alex Lokhmanchuk with 11 each rounded out the scoring for the winners. Opel's defense held Ulker to 26 points in the second half and only allowed Miljan Goljovic to reach double figures at 17 points. It's second loss dropped Ulker to 3-2 and third place behind Opel in Group B.
Stanescu was the most effective player during a slow Frankfurt start. Ulker took a 9-13 lead after five minutes. The score was close until Quadre Lollis left with his third foul after just 8 minutes. His teammates woke up and scored 9 unanswered points to make it 15-24 and finished the first quarter with an 11-point lead 15-26. Frankfurt played better defense in the second quarter, and after a huge three by Kai Nurnberger, the home team made its first attempt to get back into the game at 20-27. After Ulker pulled away again, led by Miljan Goljovic's 17 first-half, power forward Marcus Goree finally woke up for Frankfurt. He scored six points in a row , the last two with an incredible dunk. Frankfurt even had the chance to take the lead at 30-31 but committed too many turnovers offense. That allowed Ulker, which kept its cool, to reboot and power to a 32-44 halftime lead.
The second half began with a bang, another three-pointer for Ulker. Down 15 on its home floor, the last thing Frankfurt did was give up Both teams exchanged threes after that and Frankfurt came closer, point by point. Ulker ran into big foul trouble now as its key big men, Lollis and Bud Eley, collected their fourth fouls. The team from Turkey lost focus for a moment. Roller hit a big three with a minute to go in the third quarter, then Frankfurt got loose and suddenly, with the help of the home crowd, tied the game after 30 minutes, 58-58.
To start the fourth quarter, Ulker pulled away by four again, 58-62, and despite Eley leaving with his fifth foul, kept on going to 60-68. The visitors looked like winners, however, Roller was ready with the big plays for the hometeam, and led 10-0 run that gave Frankfurt its first lead since the opening minutes. Ulker took a timeout, but then Lollis left with his fifth foul. With the score at 72-70 for Frankfurt, Ulker had one last chance to tie it, but Frankfurt's defense forced a 24-second shot clock violation. Goree scored the final basket and Frankfurt was suddenly 4-1, which nobody expected!
Thursday, November 8, 2001