AEK of Athens wanted a Euroleague victory to do justice to how well it is playing this season. On Thursday at home in Athens, they got their victory and more. A 106-70 dismantling of visiting Partizan Belgrade brands AEK a team to watch out for in Group D and beyond. The victory also saw the resurgence of veteran shooter Arijan Komazec, who led six AEK players in double-figures with 22 points. Demos Dikoudis and Andrew Betts added 14 each while young Christophe Tapoutos and JR Holden wowed the AEK crowd with 12 and 10 points respectively. AEK is now 1-1 in group play, its loss having come in overtime on the road, while Partizan has the same 1-1 record. Jobo Stanojevic led the visitors with 24 points.
They say that you play better when you feel that everybody doubts for your skills. Well, veteran Arijan Komazec certainly made that seem like the truth. Having struggled until now, Komazec was marvellous in the first quarter, leading AEK to an extraordinary 34-14 lead. The 30-year-old forward scored 11 points and Holden added 7, making AEK look like the Los Angeles Lakers in their gold home uniforms. Partizan¿s players sturggled after the first few minutes, as the AEK defense closed down Vlado Scepanovic. The only visiting player who showed his strength was Jovo Stanojevic, who scored 9 points in the first quarter.
Despite the big early lead, few Greek fans doubted that the young Yugoslav team would come back. But coach Dragan Sakota was there to warn AEK against a letdown, as he had all week. AEK not only maintained but expanded upon its lead, cruising into halftime with a 55-31 advantage, and that was not even the biggest gap between the two teams. Young supertalent Christos Tapoutos dunked the ball with style while Demos Dikoudis added some fantastic power slams, helping AEK improve the difference to 26 points, 55-29, one minute before the break. Some of the fans seemed not to believe in their eyes, even though AEK has been beating good teams in the Greek League. The first half showed, however, that losing at Asvel in France in the first game had given the AEK players extra motivation.
Whether Partizan was just stunned or AEK was in a state of grace, the host's lead kept climbing, up to 31 points, 76-45, late in the third quarter. The anxwer was somewhere in the middle. The Greek team played hard defense that didn't let any Partizan stars shine. Only Scepanovic managed to score 13 points, although Nenad Canak surprised AEK's front line. Komazec kept improving, finishing the third period with 22 points. English center Andrew Betts was terrific under the boards and Holden had a chance to make the fans clap their hands wathing his spectacular dribbling. Partizan never managed to cut the deficit to less than 25 points.
Wednesday, October 17, 2001