Ural Great spent the recent break in Euroleague play trying to improve its outside scoring, and at home on Thursday, it needed all those extra points to gain a 103-98 home victory against Adecco Asvel Basket before another packed house of 8,000 fans in Perm, Russia. The victory lifts Ural (7-5) into a three-way tie for second place with AEK and Scavolini in ever-crowded Group D, and leaves Asvel (6-6) tied for fifth with Partizan. With the addition of guard Panagiotis Liadelis, signed lest than two weeks ago, Ural's relentless offense proved just too much for what had been one of the Euroleague's best defenses of late. Anthony Bowie led the winners with 22 points and Liadelis had 21 to go with 19 each by regular inside contributors Ruslan Avleev and Valeri Daineko. All of that was needed to offset five double-figure Asvel scorers led by Nikola Vujcic with 24, Kyle Hill and David Frigout with 15 each. Asvel's loss had the effect of assuring first-place Tau Ceramica at least a spot in the Top 16, the first team in the Group D to do so.
The game in Perm was pretty much similar to the one both teams played in Lyon, with neither team getting an advantage worth mentioning until deep into the game. The scoreboard balance that would mark the whole game was already evident during the first minutes. Even though the guests took small leads of 2 or 3 points, the very pace of the scoring favored Ural, the Euroleague's top-scoring team, against Asvel, among the best defenses. With 2 minutes still to go in the quarter, both teams had already scored 21 points. The final moments were marked by three free throws by Harold Mrazek to put Asvel in the lead again, 27-29, but the reply came on the buzzer with a spectacular three by Anthony Bowie to fire up the fans and put the home team up 30-29 after 10 minutes.
The second period confirmed both the balance and the scoring festival. Asvel tried to score beyond the 6.25 line, but went the ball didn't go in, Ural Great always replied with explosive fastbreaks, punishing Asvel's basket during an 8-0 run that put the Russians 4 points ahead, 43-39. Vujcic became the savior for Asvel when it looked like the Greens would fall before the scoring power of the Russians, and he finished the first half with 12 points. For Ural, Liadelis was the best scorer with 15 points at the break. Another three-pointer, this by Daineko, gave Ural the halftime lead at 59-57 when it looked like only the buzzer could stop these two teams from scoring.
As was to be expected, the pace of the first half slowed down in the second, and both teams improved on defense. Still, both teams seemed to mirror each other in scoring terms, whether in converting or missing shots, thus a regular two- or three-point lead for Ural Great. Nikola Radulovic was fouled out with more than 3 minutes remaining in the third period, but Frigout managed to tie the score at 72. The key play of the game arrived one minute later when Frigout was called a personal foul plus a technical foul that Bowie used to score 4 free throws. Ural also scored the basket for the following play, thus forging an 8-point lea, at 80-72, that would be the score at the end of the third quarter.
Asvel wouldn't surrender that soon though, and Simon Petrov made his way through threes, helped by the omnipresent Vujcic. Ural was wise enough though, to keep the lead, while the French tried to reach them unsuccessfully due to constant three-pointers missed by Kyle Hill. When Frigout and Mrazek were fouled out for the visitors, the game looked sealed at 98-93. But Asvel managed to get to 98-95 with one minute to go, but the man of the game, Bowie, appeared to hit a saving three for 101-95 after an offensive rebound with 17 seconds to go. Hill gave the last stroke for the French side with a desperate three from downtown, but Avleev's two free throws in the final seconds sealed the deal at 103-98.
Wednesday, January 30, 2002
Maria Kravtchenko, Moscow