FC Barcelona confirmed its uncontested leadership in Group A by thrashing Ulker 92-57 at home in Spain on Thursday. Both teams were without there top stars, as Barca ace Dejan Bodiroga sat out the game with a toe injury, and Ulker center Joseph Blair missed his third straight game with back problems. Barcelona improved to 6-1 to sta on top of the group, while Ulker fell to 3-3, with the same victories as Cibona VIP and Union Olimpija. Cibona and Ulker still have to face each other in a replay from Week 5. Anderson Varejao led the winners with 17 points on 6-for-11 field goals and 6 rebounds. Gregor Fucka had 14 points, while Vlado Ilievski and Roberto Dueñas scored 12 points apiece for Barcelona. Ulker, which made just 4 of 22 three-pointers, was led by Ibrahim Kutluay, with 14 points, while Melvin Booker had 10 for the guests.
Even when Efthimios Rentzias made a layup and Ibrahim Kutluay a six-meter jumper to give Ulker an early 3-4 lead, Barca soon took over. Without Bodiroga on the floor, Barcelona changed its playing the style, running the break as soon as possible. As such, the hosts broke the game open with a 12-2 run in which Navarro had 4 points and Fucka added a three-point play. Barca's lead was 13-6 after back-to-back layups by Vlado Ilievski and Navarro off consecutive steals in midcourt. Gonlum made 2 free throws for Ulker, but also picked up his third foul and went to the bench, leaving Ulker without their top recent scorer. Fucka made 2 free throws, Roger Grimau added a layup in penetration while Patrick Femerling made a jumper from the high post to extend Barca's lead to 21-10. Then it was boosted to 24-13 after 10 minutes on a buzzer-beating left-handed layup by Rodrigo De La Fuente.
Little changed in the second quarter, even though Ulker introduced Serkan Ergodan and Brad Traina to look for more outside shooting. Barcelona, with great defensive effort and fluid offense, pushed ahead to 29-13 with a layup by Grimau and a three-point play by Varejao. Fatih Solak and Roberto Dueñas exchanged dunks, but soon a coast-to-coast layup by Ilievski helped Barcelona to lead by 19, 35-16, midway through the quarter. Traina found his way to the basket, scoring 4 consecutive points, and Ulker switched to 2-3 zone defense, but the hosts found ways to break it for easy baskets. Ulker struggled offensively, especially from three-point range, while Fucka made back-to-back layups in a 8-0 run which pushed Barca's lead to 26, 48-22. Ulker found some firepower in the final minute of the half as Kutluay made a layup while Booker added free throws and a six-meter running jumper at the buzzer to make it 48-28, at halftime.
Almost copying the way they started the game, Rentzias made a mid-range jumper and Kutluay drilled a three for Ulker to make it a 15-point game, 48-33, right after halftime. Soon after that, however, Barcelona finished Ulker's hopes with a 10-3 run in which Ilieviski made 5 points and Femerling 3 free throws, restoring the 24-point lead, 62-38. Booker was the only player to find his way for Ulker on offense, but Ilievski and Grimau made shots from downtown, while 2 free throws by Varejao helped Barcelona to keep its lead. Booker, with one more jumper, made it a 22-point game, 70-48, entering the fourth quarter.
The hosts kept defending and finding their open man in the final quarter Varejao made consecutive baskets in the paint, igniting a 9-0 opening run, which included a triple by De La Fuente and a dunk by Dueñas. The outcome was already clear as the hosts led by 31, 79-48, so Barcelona tried to provide some showtime for its fans. Varejao followed an alley-oop dunk with a basket in the low post, while Kutluay and Tutku Acik made long three-pointers for the guests. Both teams tried to reach the final buzzer as soon as possible. In the end, Barcelona, with youngsters like Marc Gasol and Cesar Bravo on the court, won by 35, 92-57.
Thursday, December 18, 2003