Group A leader Lietuvos Rytas took the honor of joining the first qualifiers to the ULEB Cup eighthfinals round when it downed visiting Brose Baskets Bamberg 81-62 at home in Vilnius, Lithuania on Tuesday. L. Rytas raised its record to 6-2 and improved on the likelihood that it can hold onto first place through the end of the regular season. Bamberg stays in last place after falling to 2-6. Injury-plagued L. Rytas blew open a game that had been tied at halftime with a 24-7 third quarter, including a 14-0 run that made clear its own qualification and Bamberg's near elimination. Marijonas Petravicius led the winners with 12 points, most in the first half. Joao Batista added 11, Janis Blums and Arturas Jomantas 10 each. Matt Nielsen just missed a double-double with 9 points and 11 rebounds for the winners, who owned the backboards with a 40-24 rebounding advantage. Bamberg got 18 points from De Juan Collins, 11 from Darren Fenn and 10 from Robert Garrett.
L. Rytas, playing without injured starters Roberts Stelmahers and Eurelijus Zukauskas, went up 4-0 on an early layup by Matthew Nielsen but saw K'Zell Wesson and Collins push in difficult shots to tie 4-4. Petravicius answered with 5 straight points to put the hosts ahead 9-6. Brose Baskets stayed close as Collins nailed a pair of jumpers, but otherwise couldn't convert their chances to go ahead. Tomas Delininkaitis finally made a free throw to end 2 minutes of silence and make the score 12-10. Bamberg took advantage of the hosts' sluggishness as fresh-off-the-bench Darren Fenn landed a three-pointer that sent the visitors ahead for the first time, 17-18. L. Rytas woke up then and intensified its defense, and even regained a 21-18 lead, but veteran Robert Garret squeezed in a three-pointer and Collins made free throws as Bamberg led 21-23 after 10 minutes. Fenn got the second quarter going with a mid-range jumper that Delininkaitis answered with free throws. L. Rytas switched to full court pressure on defense, which worked as Bamberg scored only 2 points in the first 3 minutes of the second quarter. L. Rytas couldn't score either, however, and finally Garrett broke the ice with a mid-range jumper that increased the visitors' lead to 23-27. Andrius Slezas boosted the hosts with a triple and L. Rytas got back in the driver's seat at 29-28 after 17 minutes. Bamberg replied immediately as Collins and Fenn scored 5 free throws to end the first half with the scoreboard dead even at 34-34.
Petravicius looked persistant on the offensive boards as he started the third quarter with a difficult put-back. Collins was walked off the court looking injured, but Bamberg found the answer in Garret, who hit a cozy turnaround jumper to tie 36-36. After Petravicius and Jomantas dropped 4 free throws, the hosts looked to have seized control of the game. The feeling was strenghtened on another L. Rytas attack as Jomantas penetrated for a bucket-plus-free throw. A pair of timeouts didn't help Bamberg as Delininkaitis, Nielsen and Jomantas pushed the lead to double digits and completed a crushing 14-0 run with L. Rytas in control at 50-36. Collins came back and ended Bamberg's 7 minutes of scoring silence with free throws, but Jomantas continued to shine. This time he fed Mindaugas Lukauskis for a fantastic basket-plus-free throw that boosted the margin to 53-38. Free throws by Collins were again surpassed by a Titus Ivory three-pointer, leaving a decisive 58-41 score after three quarters. There was not much to decide though, as the fourth quarter seemed only a formality. L. Rytas kept its rhythm and boosted the margin even more when Slezas landed a triple to restore a 20-point advantage, 61-41. The teams exchanged baskets the rest of the way, but Bamberg could find no way to initiate a run and cut the lead. L. Rytas was moving to the next round and Bamberg had to pray its slim chances remained.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Gintaras Radauskas, Vilnius