Lietuvos Rytas overcame Cholet Basket 92-80
Lietuvos Rytas kept its Turkish Airlines Euroleague Top 16 hopes alive with a 92-80 victory over Cholet Basket – the team it is in direct competition with for the final Top 16 berth from Group C – on Thursday night at Siemens Arena in Vilnius, Lithuania. Cholet would have clinched a spot in the next stage with a win, but instead L. Rytas played a strong game led by Martynas Gecevicius’s 19 points. Milko Bjelica shined early and finished with 18 points and 8 rebounds, while Cemal Nalga and Kenan Bajravmovic added 16 points apiece. Nalga also grabbed 9 boards. L. Rytas, which improved to 2-6, hosts defending Euroleague champ Regal FC Barcelona next. Cholet never found a rhythm from the perimeter, hitting just 3 of 12 from beyond the arc and, now at 3-5, will face winless Cibona next game at home needing to win to keep its destiny in its hands. Sammy Mejia led Cholet with 17 points and 6 rebounds, De Marcus Nelson scored 13, Vule Avdalovic had 12 and dished out 6 assists, Randal Falker netted 11 and Claude Marquis had 10 for the visitors, who were without injured guard Fabien Causeur.
Cholet had a nice start to the game, going up 3-0 with good perimeter shooting, but Gecevicius hit a corner three pointer to get L. Rytas close and soon the hosts were up 10-9 thanks to a Bjelica basket and on route to a 13-0 run with Cholet unable to answer until Nelson hit a jumper for the 16-11 score. With the momentum shifting to the home side, it was two consecutive three-point plays by Nelson, the second on a highlight reel worthy dunk, that put the game at a manageable difference again, 18-15. It seemed L. Rytas, with Sarunas Jasikevicius running the offense in a point guard by committee approach with Khalid El-Amin, would run away with more of a cushion at the end of one, but a buzzer-beating running triple by Mejia limited the difference to 28-20.
Cholet pushed to cut the lead in the second quarter, and Avdalovic was able to do just that with a gutsy penetrating layup. But Nalga answered right back with an inside move, as the big man started to shine and converted again for a tip in and a 38-24 lead. L. Rytas thrived with a fast pace and found open looks, though Cholet never let up and crashed the offensive glass in search of second chance points. Thanks to some tenacious defense and good ball movement on the offensive end, the visitors were able to build a 6-0 run where Mejia scored on a nice driving layup and Avdalovic hit a triple from the top of the key, forcing a 38-31 scenario and a timeout call from L. Rytas head coach Aleksandar Trifunovic. As his men started going inside more in the half court, Cholet settled down some and dared the hosts to beat them with a 2-3 zone defense in the half’s closing minutes, and the hosts did just that, after some patient ball moving allowed Kenan Bajramovic to dunk. The visitors still had time to counter a three-point play by Gecevicius to settle the score, 50-41, at the break.
A dunk by Antywane Robinson off a nice feed from Avdalovic made it 54-50, but Gecevicius answered with a jumper and his second triple of the night to get to 61-54. With Cholet trying to keep it within two possessions, the visitors pushed the tempo against Jasikevicius’s veteran legs, but it was the halfcourt that prevailed, and Bajramovic took full advantage with a top of the key triple to extend it to 66-56. Cholet then sealed the paint with Robinson and Falker, hoping to get the fast break going, and they found enough of a reaction to provide another signature finish to the period, as Falker tapped in a Nelson miss at the buzzer for the 72-62 marker with 10 minutes to play.
L. Rytas was determined to stay in the driver’s seat and Bjelica put the pedal to the metal on a nice left handed layup that left them in front again by their biggest margin at 76-63. The El-Amin/Bajramovic tandem worked wonderfully all night for Trifunovic’s squad, and the hosts intensified their defense in the final quarter, forcing Cholet into difficult shots. Gecevicius was also feeling it form the arc, and he netted his third triple and 19th point of the game to put his team ahead by 18. Cholet kept trying to come back and, again with a 2-3 zone, was able to close the defensive glass and force L. Rytas to seal the deal from the perimeter. And the hosts did just that, even after some nice inside makes by Falker and Christophe Leonard, as El Amin hit the 89-70 from beyond the arc with two minutes left in the game. Cholet still made a conscious effort to at least even the point average in the final minutes, but the hosts finished strong and kept their options intact for the race to the Top 16.
Thursday, December 9, 2010