Olympiacos Piraeus retained its share of the Group A lead with an 81-88 win over RheinEnergie Cologne on Wednesday night in Dusseldorf, Germany. Scoonie Penn led the Reds with 22 points and 6 assists as Olympiacos improved to 6-1, the same record as Tau Ceramica, which topped Le Mans 76-79. The two sides meet next week in Vitoria, Spain in a clash for first place. Meanwhile, RheinEnergie dropped to 2-5 and needs a comeback in the second half of the regular season to become the second German team to advance to the Top 16. Alex Acker, Andrija Zizic and Ioannis Bourousis scored 16 each for Olympiacos. Marcin Gortat led RheinEnergie with 17 points and 3 blocked shots, Mladjen Sljivancanin added 15 and Ronnie Burrell 13 for the hosts, who outrebounded the Reds by 33-24. Olympiacos led almost all the way and kept a 74-84 lead with 2 minutes to go. RheinEnergie used a 7-0 run to get within 81-84 in the final seconds, but Henry Domercant and Penn sealed the win from the free-throw line.
The game got off to an offensive slug fest. It was the Penn and Zizic show for Olympiacos early on, as the big man scored 10 straight points after Penn had opened with a runner in the lane. Cologne got 5 quick points from Janar Talts, after Immanuel McElroy hit a layup for the first basket of the game. Two free throws by Penn were followed by a three from Marcus Faison to tie it at 14-14. Penn found Bourousis for an open look from the three-point line, as the first Piraeus player not named either Penn or Zizic scored. Cologne could not miss from outside, as Burrell and Gortat hit mid-range jumpers and Faison, Demond Mallet and guard Sljivancanin hit threes. But Olympiacos kept up the pace with 4 points each from Acker and Penn. Panagiotis Vasiloupos ended the opening period with a triple that made it 29-32.
After Mallet drilled a three pointer to even the score at 32-32 at the start of the second quarter, both teams cooled down from the field. With the defenses tightening up, most of the scoring came at the free throw line: RheinEnergie scored 10 points at the line, but would not make a field goal until the final minute of the quarter when Sljivancanin fired in a three. Piraeus went 8-for-10 from the charity stripe and got two baskets inside from Bourousis, the last one giving Olympiacos a 45-51 lead in the final minute of the quarter. But with the clock running out, Nadjfeji found McElroy under the basket for a layup and the halftime score of 47-51.
Olympiacos started to pull away at the start of the third quarter, as a Bourousis layup and a Zizic jumper sparked a 6-0 spurt that gave the Reds a 10-point lead. Penn had all the answers for the visitors, as he twice restored a double-digit advantage after RheinEnergie showed signs of coming back. After a McElroy layup, Mallet drilled a three as Cologne got within 58-63, but this time Domercant answered with a slam and back-to-back Nikos Barlos baskets upped the lead to 11. Burrell scored three the hard way, but Domercant's triple ended the third quarter with Piraeus on top 61-72.
Burrell tried to ignit RheinEnergie's comeback with a jumper, but a red-hot Penn stepped up with back-to-back layups, which made it a 12-point game. Even though Sljivancanin fired one in from downtown, it would be the game's only points in more than 2 minutes. Acker nailed a jumper to increase the Reds' margin to 67-78 midway through the final period. Free throws by Gortat and a layup from Nadjfeji gave RheinEnergie some hope at 71-78. Acker came through again with a layup, but more foul shots by Gortat and Faison got the hosts within 74-80 with 2 minutes to go. Olympiacos did not lose control, however, as Zizic made free throws and the ever-present Acker added another basket. Even with that, Sljvancanin and Burrell fueled a 7-0 RheinEnergie run, which Nadjfeji capped with a layup, to get the hosts within 81-84 with 16 seconds to go. However Domercant and Penn hit the key free throws, which allowed the Reds leave Germany with yet another road win.
Wednesday, December 6, 2006