A great Euroleague season opener in Belgrade saw the promising young locals from Partizan Mobtel challenge a rebuilding Real Madrid to the finish before the visitors pulled out an 82-86 decision in Group C. Madrid speedster Lucio Angulo was the key player on the court with 20 points, including 9 of 10 free throws. He got big help from the center tandem of Dragan Tarlac and Eduardo Hernandez-Sonseca, who combined for 25 points and 13 rebounds. The leading scorer for Partizan was Milos Vujanic with 26. Nenad Canak added 13, Nenad Krstic and Dusan Kecman 12. Madrid won the game under the rims, corralling 37 rebounds against Partizan's 23. The host team shot better triples, but there is one three-pointer to remember. Michael Hawkins was hit on the head with a coin thrown from the crowd 2 minutes before the end of the third period. It seems that the coin was the injection of adrenalin for Hawkins. In the last second of that period he hit three-pointer from 13 metres!
From the very first moment there were two highly-visible and important duels to watch: Vujanic vs. Hawkins at the point and Marvin O'Connor vs. Alberto Herreros on the wing. Madrid started better and lead 4-8 after 4 minutes. Then Canak hit a three-pointer, Kecman made another and like that the lead was 19-13 in Partizan's favor. The largest Partizan lead would come at 23-16 at the close of the first period. Partizan had made three shots from deep by then, Madrid none, and both Derrick Alston and Alain Digbeu had three for the visitors. In the second quarter, Madrid started working harder on defense. Tarlac blocked 2 shoots, pare of the reason for a 2-10 Madrid run. Angulo hit 7 of 8 free throws in that stretch while Lucas Victoriano added the only Real three-pointer of the first half. On the other side, only Canak and Kecman kept Partizan alive. Young Blagota Sekulic was already strapped with four fouls at the end of first half.
The fourth period opened with a three-point play underneath for Hernandez-Sonseca and a wide Madrid lead, 55-65. Vujanic tried to bring back Partizan in the game shooting threes and free throws. After an 6-0 run in minute 37, Partizan was down just 3 points, 72-75, but Alston, Herreros and Angulo showed veteran poise in the last 2 minutes. Madrid's better defense during all 40 minutes is what gave it control at the end on a tough court.
Wednesday, October 9, 2002
Aleksandar Ostojic, Belgrade