Cibona registered its first win in the 2005-06 Euroleague Basketball season by downing current ULEB Cup champions and Euroleague newcomers Lietuvos Rytas 68-57 in Zagreb in Group B on Wednesday. Scoonie Penn led the winners with 18 points and 6 rebounds, Davor Kus added 15 points and Davor Marcelic scored 10 for Cibona, whose defense ruled all night. Haris Mujezinovic and Fred House each had 11 points for L. Rytas while Robertas Javtokas scored 10. Kus and Penn shined in the opening quarter as Cibona took a 17-7 margin that soon reached double digits for most of the game. L. Rytas managed to cut its deficit to 49-41 late in the third quarter, but Marcelic scored 8 of his 10 points in less than 2 minutes to give Cibona a safe lead for good. L. Rytas was limited to 17-for-59 shooting, as head coach Neven Spahija and Mujezinovic, who both worked for Cibona in the past, could not get back to Vilnius, Lithuania with a win.
It took almost 2 minutes before Rancic opened fire with a three-pointer, as L. Rytas tried to power the offensive board in the early going. Nielsen scored inside the first-ever Euroleague Basketball points for L.Rytas, but the guests already had troubles in offense and Cibona made the most out of it. Davison had his revenge with a nice three-point play and a dunk in a 7-0 run, putting Cibona ahead as far as 10-2. The hosts' defense limited L. Rytas to just those 2 points in the opening 5 minutes until Javtokas took over with a dunk to wake his team up. House stepped up with 3 free throws, as L. Rytas got the message and focused on defense, but missed easy shots, and thus could not get closer. Cibona found its go-to guy in Penn, who scored 6 unanswered points to give the hosts their biggest lead, 17-7, at the end of the first quarter. L.Rytas was limited to 2-for-16 shooting and committed 7 turnovers in those 10 minutes.
Davor Kus started the second quarter on fire, as he sank back-to-back triples early to establish a shocking 16-point advantage, 23-7. Ivan Tomas stepped up for Lietuvos Rytas in his home city of Zagreb, making a shot from beyond the arc and adding a fastbreak layup that cut the guests' deficit to 23-12. L.Rytas switched to man-to-man defense, but it didn't pay off, as Penn answered with yet another layup at the other end and Damir Markota scored his first basket from downtown to put Cibona up 32-17. House missed an easy basket off a steal but made up for it with a one-handed dunk which silenced the Zagreb crowd momentarily. Simas Jasaitis scored his first Euroleague points with back-to-back threes for L. Rytas. Even when Kus answered with a driving layup, Haris Mujezinovic scored twice in the paint and House added free throws to cut Cibona's lead to 43-33 at the break.
Both defenses got stronger after the break, as only Mujezinovic scored from the free throw line in the opening 2 minutes of the third quarter to get L. Rytas within single digits, 43-34. The guests lacked confidence under their own basket, however, which Skelin took advantage of with a jump hook. House tried to change things with a difficult layup and Tomas Delininkaitis fed Javtokas for a two-handed dunk. Cibona focused on defense, but an aggressive Javtokas went to the free line throw line constantly. L. Rytas switched to zone defence, but didn't stop Markota, who found himself open for a three-pointer. L. Rytas looked for a dominant Javtokas in the middle, but despite all efforts on offense, the guests' defense did not work now. Marcelic came to the rescue for Cibona, as he fired in 2 bombs from downtown and scored free throws off a technical foul on Slezas to power Cibona to a 58-44 margin at the end of the third quarter.
L. Rytas needed a quick comeback, but missed shots leading to a single point in 3 minutes to start the fourth quarter prevented that. Meanwhile, a fast and furious Penn came off screens to score easy baskets. Lukauskis seemed to be the only warrior in the battlefield for L. Rytas, as he followed a big dunk with a three-pointer that made it a 12-point game, 64-52, with under 4 minutes to go. The guests ran out of time on a bad shooting night for L. Rytas, while Penn pleased the crowd with a showman's performance. Cibona won 68-57, finishing its Euroleague opener with a high grade in front of their fans, showing that as usual, Zagreb will be a tough spot for any opponent yet again this season.
Wednesday, November 2, 2005