That anything can happen in the ULEB Cup was almost proven again on Tuesday in Novo Mesto, Slovenia as Group D leader Krka had to rally on its own court to beat last-place Darussafaka of Turkey 79-76. A three-pointer with 4 seconds left off the hands of young guard Aleksandar Capin saved the day for Krka, which had trailed much of the game. The victory boosted Krka to 5-1 and put Darussafaka in danger at 1-5, but for much of the game, the feeling was the opposite. The Turkish team changed drastically over the break - even releasing ULEB Cup top scorer Acie Earl - and its new guys took a sizable halftime lead and held an advantage of 3 points with 5 minutes to play. The game was tied with 21 seconds left when Krka came out of a timeout and got the ball to Capin for the game-winner.
It was a brand new Darussafaka that took the floor in Novo Mesto. Not on the bench were three of its top five scorers until now. Earl, the ULEB Cup scoring leader with 23 points per game, was released and replaced with DeAngelo Collins, an American straight out of high school. Hakan Koseoglu (8.2 ppg) had been ceded to another Turkish team and Leonid Yaylo (8.6 ppg) was not around either. From the opening tipoff, one thing was clear: Darussafaka didn't came to Novo Mesto with any trepidation toward the group leader. With strong defense, the visitors managed to stop Krka's best shooters early. And with Jones scoring 10 first-quarter points in the paint, Darussafaka took an early lead. Slavko Duscak rose up with a jumper to get that lead back for Krka, 15-12, but soon Jones rose for his own shot, a great slam, and Darussafaka reached the end of the first quarter with a 20-21. In the second quarter, the visitors' defense really kicked in, which helped because Collins, after scoring 8 points, was on the bench with fouls. That defense did it all while Jones kept scoring and Darussafaka glided into halftime with a shocking 30-39 lead.
The break served to give Krka some time to reform its game plan, and the result worked on both ends. With Arnold back in action underneath and some defensive changes closing off the paint to Jones, the home team was able to get back in the game quickly, but Darussafaka would not let go of a good thing. It wasn't until the end of the third quarter, with Arnold back in charge, that Krka was finally able to wrest away the lead, but only by a single point, 56-55. Darussafaka's big problem then was fouls, with both Collins and Cuneyt Eeden, who had made 3 three-pointers, on the bench with four each. Nonetheless, the Turkish visitors responded in the early fourth quarter, putting on a 7-11 run to seize a 63-66 lead with 5 minutes to go. But that's when both Collins and Erden fouled out. Krka made a new move, scoring the next 6 points to go ahead 69-66 then extending it to 72-68 on a three-pointer by Vladimir Anzulovic. But Darussafaka would not give up and with Burak Sezgin scoring from downtown was able to forge a 76-76 tie in the final minute. Coming out of a timeout with 21 seconds left, Krka got the ball to Capin, who shot with 4 seconds left from behind the arc and put things right for his teams and the fans in Novo Mesto.
Tuesday, December 3, 2002
Jernej Tisu, Novo Mesto