In another demonstration of how tough Group D is proving, AEK of Athens, the top team in Greece this season, had to sweat out an 86-79 home win on Wednesday against winless Telindus Oostende of Belgium, which switched head coaches over the weekend. AEK had to shake off the visitors early and often to raise its record to 4-1, good for a first-place tie in the group. Oostende showed fire under new coach Eddy Casteels but remains winless at 0-5 in the basement. Its four stalwarts again led AEK in scoring, with Michalis Kakiouzis topping the charts with 23. J.R. Holden added 18 points, Dimos Dikoudis 17 and Andrew Betts 16. For Oostende, Andrius Giedraitis finished with 21 after a 12-point first quarter. Virginius Praskevicius added 20 and Teo Cizmic 15.
Even though a three-pointer scored by their former teammate, Holden, opened the scoring for AEK, the Lithuanian duo of Giedraitis and Praskevicius stabilized the situation to Oostende's advantage. The visitors rode their great performance from an early lead of 7-10 after three minutes all the way to 9-17. AEK didn't play any defense, while both Michalis Kakiouzis and Arian Komazec were quiet on offense, with just two points thus far,and Andrew Betts and Dimos Dikoudis were the onle active players of the Greek team, as Oostende's mixed defenses, including a strong zone, led it to a put some big offensive plays, using the quickness, the excellent shoting options, in combination with the zone defense, led it to lead by 5 points, 21-26, after 10 minutes.
By that time AEK was waking up due to its defense. Coach Dragan Sakota called from the bench two defensive specialists, veteran Jim Bilba and youngster Vassilis Kikilias, as well as teenage point guard Nikos Zissis. Together, they gave AEK everything it was missing so far. Four minutes into the second quarter, Kakiouzis scored a two-pointer to get back the lead, at last, 29-28. Changing defenses from zone to man-to-man within the same possession, Sakota kept the pressue on Oostende until AEK was up 7 points, 45-38, at the end of the first half. By that time, Betts was hot on the inside, with 12 points, while Kakiouzis and Holden had 10 each. Giedraitis had cooled off quickly for Oostende, scoring only two points during the second quarter to reach the break with 14 points, three more than Praskevicius (11).
After halftime came another Oostende suprise, big man Teo Cizmic stepping forward to hit three consecutive three-pointers in attempts to keep his team alive, but AEK didn' t lose the control of the game. Dimos Dikoudis came up big under the boards, Kakiouzis continued his great performances and AEK concluded the third quarter still ahead by 7 points, 66-59. Even when Oostende cut the deficit to 4 points, at 66-62, the Yellows stayed cool. Holden hit two-three pointers in a row to give AEK a double-figure margin, 72-62, eight minutes before the end of the game. In the rest of the game the competitive Belgians didn't give up, but even in a low profile game, AEK's superiority was evident, if only by the seven points in the final score.
Wednesday, November 7, 2001