Pau-Orthez confirmed its rise to contender status in Group A with a third win in a row, this one on the road by 62-78 against Ulker in Istanbul on Wednesday night. Pau improved to 3-3, including two away victories, while Ulker fell to 3-2 pending the replay of its game with Cibona. Dragan Lukovski led the winners with 18 points, making 14 of 18 free throws and dishing 7 assists. Mate Skelin and Nate Erdmann added 12 points apiece for Pau, who's defense held Ulker to 21-for-67 shooting overall. Kerem Gonlum had a double-double for Ulker, with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Gonlum shot 7-for-9 from the field and 6-for-8 from the free throw line. Ibrahim Kutluay chipped in 14 points for Ulker, who again missed injured center Joe Blair, while combo guard Melvin Booker was slowed due to his injury last week against Cibona. Booker played just 6 minutes and scored 2 points.
The early signs were positive for Ulker as Ibrahim Kutluay opened the scoring with a three-pointer and Kerem Gonlum added 2 free throws for a 5-0 lead. Pau's only points in the opening 3 minutes came off an easy basket by Mate Skelin. Meanwhile, Fatih Solak made back-to-back layups to give the hosts a seven-point lead, 9-2. Skelin was the only player to score for Pau, as he made the first 5 points for the guests. Ulker got into early foul trouble, entering the bonus with five minutes to go in the first, and Pau took advantage of it. Florent Pietrus followed a dunk off a steal with 2 free throws to cut the local lead to 11-9. Even when Kutluay drilled his second triple of the game, Gonlum and Tutku Acik had picked up their second fouls and Solak went to the bench with 3 of his own. Efthimios Rentzias and Ashraf Amaya entered the game to replace Gonlum and Solak. Meanwhile, Dragan Lukovski made 2 from the line and Skelin added one more to bring Pau within 14-12. Kutluay made a layup, answered by Lukovski, before Rentzias made one of his occasional three-pointers to give Ulker a five-point lead, 19-14, at the end of the first quarter.
Despite an early basket by Serkan Erdogan, Ulker started struggling in the offensive end early in the second, going scoreless for 3 minutes. Pau did not take advantage of it. The visitors' only points came on a three-pointer by Nate Erdmann, his only basket of the half, and a layup by Foirest. Both teams exchanged baskets midway through the second quarter, but Pau's second unit stepped up now. Fabien Dubos made a mid-range jumper, which Lukovski followed to tie the game at 25-25, and Frederic Fauthoux answered Gonlum's layup with a three-pointer to give Pau its first lead, 27-28. In the end, Fauthoux and Dubos combined for 12 points in a 6-18 run which gave Pau an eight-point lead, 31-39, just before Gonlum cut it to 32-39 at halftime. Pau's defense excelled in the second quarter, as Ulker made only 4 of 14 field goals and committed 7 turnovers, paving the way for the turnaround on the scoreboard. Ulker's own attempt at playing zone was broken by Pau with ease in the last minutes of the half.
Both teams exchanged misses in 2 scoreless minutes that started the second half. Artur Drozdov broke the drought with a dunk to give Pau a 32-41 lead. Gonlum answered back with a layup, but Pau went into a game-breaking 0-13 run, in which Skelin made an easy basket, Lukovski added 4 consecutive points and Erdmann added 7 more, including a huge three-pointer, which gave the guests an 18-point lead, 34-54. Ulker, having missed its previous 6 field goals attempts, found some fresh air in a three-pointer by Kutluay, but it happened to be the hosts' only field goal in 6 minutes. Nevertheless, Pau also started to struggle, and the very same Kutluay added 3 free throws, while Acik made a layup in the final minute of the third to cut the guests' lead to 15 points, 44-59, after 30 minutes.
The hosts needed to improve their defense and start scoring as soon as possible if they wanted to get back into the game. But that did not happen. Skelin scored in the first play of the final period, pushing Pau's lead to 17, 44-61. Though Gonlum answered with a dunk, Pau managed to keep its lead in the opening 4 minutes of the fourth, as Ulker did not find the way to the basket. Drozdov and Guler exchanged baskets then, preserving a 15-point game, 48-63. By the time Lukovski added 2 more from the line and Cyril Julian scored under the basket, pushing Pau's lead to 49-67, a new game started, as Ulker tried to lose for by the fewest points possible to avoid troubles at the end of the first round. As such, Erdogan drilled a three, Gonlum added a put-back and 2 free throws to make it a 14-point game, 56-70. Ulker never got closer, and Pau ended up winning by 16, 62-78.
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Gokhan Ture, Istanbul