BK Ventspils of Latvia won its fourth straight game and second on the road to stay strong in Group B with a 70-76 victory at FMP in Belgrade on Tuesday. Ventspils now has a 4-1 record and will at least hold second place, depending on other results, at midseason. FMP, the only team to play in all editions of the ULEB Cup, fell to an unfamiliar danger zone at 1-4. Ventspils turned the game around right after halftime with a barrage of triples that supplied an advantage that its defense guarded the rest of the way. Justin Love scored 21 pionts, including 12 of 14 free throws, plus had 6 rebounds and 6 assists to lead the winners. Uvis Helmanis buried 5 of 8 three-point tries to follow with 17 points. Dragan Labovic came off FMP's bench to score 12 points and pull 5 rebounds in just 15 minutes, while Nemanja Protic added 10 points for the hosts.
Jimmy Baxter of Ventspils opened fire with a three-pointer but Zoran Erceg did the same to give FMP its first lead as Bojan Krstovic joined him with a jumper. Erceg added 4 more points but Helmanis kept the visitors close as close as 17-12 with his own 5 points. Then Helmanis scored from behind the arc cutting the difference to 19-15 at the end of one period. Pavels Veselovs copied his teammate to start the second quarter, when Ventspils also intensified its defense. Love joined the scoring with a jumper that put Ventspils ahead again, 19-20. FMP's Filip Covic and Dragan Labovic traded baskets with the gues for several minutes before Protic's triple got the hosts back in front, 30-28. Labovic soon added 5 straight points before Love and Miroslav Raduljica traded baskets as the first half finished 44-39. Ventspils struck back by starting the third quarter with three straight triples between Vitols and Helmanis to take over the scoreboard at 46-48 turn over. Raimonds Gabrans finished the 2-10 Ventspils run with a free throw. Aggressive defense and patient offense helped Ventspils guard the lead, and even when FMP tied it, Love's free throws were enough to offset another Protic three-pointer and keep Ventspils in front, 57-58, after 30 minutes. Nerves took over early in the last quarter, leading to turnovers and missed shots before Gabrans led the guests on an 0-6 run with free throws. Predrag Samardziski stopped FMP's slide with his 5 successive points, cutting the difference to 62-66 in minute 35. Love soon added a free throw to the lead, but for the next 3 minutes, both teams were scoreless. With 2 minutes left to play, Helmanis nailed another bomb as Ventspils had FMP rattled. Protic committed an unsportsmanlike foul and Gabrans scored the free throws for a double-digit lead at 62-73. Stefan Zivanovic's 5 straight points gave FMP some hope, but the patience of Ventspils ruled until the visitors from Latvia had a valuable Group B road victory.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007