Ulker put itself a big step closer to reaching the Top 16 from Group C by dominating last-place Partizan 100-64 at home in Istanbul on Thursday. Ulker raised its record to 4-8 and is now tied with Pau-Orthez, a team it has beaten twice, for fifth place, the last sure Top 16 spot in their group. Partizan fell to 2-10 and is eliminated from the Top 16 race. Vrbica Stefanov exploded for 21 points in the first 16 minutes to give Ulker big early leads that the hosts expanded on in the second half. Stefanov finished with 24 points, while Jeff Trepagnier added 18 and set a new Euroleague record with 11 steals. The previous mark was 9 each held by Chris Williams of Frankfurt and Fred House of Partizan. Marcus Haislip put up 16 points for Ulker and Omer Onan 12. For Partizan, both Kosta Perovic and Dejan Milojevic scored 18 points, while Predrag Suput put in 13. Led by Stefanov, Ulker hit 7 of its first 9 three-pointers and 18 of its first 23 two-pointers to build a 21-point halftime lead that was never seriously threatened the rest of the way.
It was clear from the beginning that it would be a very offensive game in a very cold night in Istanbul, as both teams exchanged baskets at full speed, with great shot selection, in the opening 5 minutes of the game. Perovic had 4 points in the opening 55 seconds for Partizan, but Ulker answered with a 7-0 run in which Haislip, Trepganier and Stefanovic combined all points, good for a 7-4 lead. A three-pointer by Trepagnier kept Ulker in charge, 12-9, after 4 minutes, but Partizan used a 0-6 run which Milojevic capped with free throws to get a 12-15 edge. Ulker unanswered with a 7-2 run highlighted by Trepagnier's three which gave Ulker a 22-17 margin. Stefanov hit 5 free throws and Haislip canned a jumper to allowe Ulker to keep a 29-25 at the end of an outstanding first quarter.
Ulker opened the second quarter with a 9-0 run in which Onan had 7 unanswered points, including a three which boosted the hosts' lead to 38-25. Partizan switched to zone defense, but Ulker was now on fire. Milojevic tried to change things with a basket-plus-foul, but Drago Pasalic erased it with a bomb from downtown, 41-28. It was the first of a 12-0 run in which Stefanov shined with 7 points, including a layup which made it a 22-point game, 50-28. Stefanov had 21 points so far. Partizan had been limited to just 3 points in almost 7 minutes until Milojevic - who else? - made free throws for a 50-30 deficit. Trepagnier shined with a big fast break dunk and Pasalic scored around the basket to fix the score at 55-34 as both teams headed to the locker rooms.
The big difference led to a lack of concentration by Ulker after halftime that Partizan took advantage of with a 0-10 run in which Perovic scored 4 points and Suput drained back-to-back triples to make it 55-41 after 23 minutes.Robert Gulyas stopped Ulker's slide with free throws and then Stefanov reappeared with a triple to restore a 60-44 advantage. Mistakes hurt both teams, but Ulker was able to take control of the game again little by little. By the time Cuneyt Erden assisted Haislip on a spectacular dunk in the final minute, Ulker was up 18 points, although Uros Tripkovic of Ulker cut the difference to 71-54 with the last shot of the third quarter.
Ulker's ended all doubt at the beginning of the last quarter with a 6-0 run to its biggest lead yet, 77-54, after Trepagnier's jumper from the left side. Dragan Pasalic joined in the scoring for Ulker as Partizan found it impossible to get to the basket during several long minutes. Trepagnier was the worst nightmare for Partizan's ballhandlers, too, as he kept collecting steals, taking one for a dunk that extended the run to 20-2 and the lead to 91-56. The rest of the game was just a matter of time for the home team. Ulker got a huge difference in the end that could conceivably come in handy in future tiebreak situations, and broke the 100-point mark for what should be a psychological boost going into the last two games of the regular season.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Gokhan Ture, Istanbul