KK Zagreb CO continued its run of good form and stayed in contention for a spot in the Top 16 with 86-74 victory over Brose Basket in Zagreb Arena. The Ants rode the hot hand of Josh Heytvelt, who scored 5 of his career-high 7 three-pointers in a span of three minutes in the third quarter that sparked a 17-4 run, and then scored 7 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to take his team to a 71-62 lead. Heytvelt finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds, both career-highs. Team captain Krunoslav Simon added 16 points and 12 rebounds, Mario Kasun had 15 points and 11 rebounds, Damir Mulaomerovic scored 13, and T.J. Ford - in his Euroleague debut – dished out 10 assists in only 13 minutes on the floor. Casey Jacobsen led the visitors with 19 points, while Anton Gavel and Marcus Slaughter had 16 each.
Kasun and Slaughter exchanged slam-dunks to open the game. Kasun followed it up with a hook shot from close range and another dunk for 6-2. The visitors missed 5 consecutive shots before Slaughter scored inside, and then Jacobsen made his first three-point shot to put the visitors in front for the first time. Simon answered right back with a three-pointer from the left corner, and Damir Rancic added a jumper from the same side. Heytvelt made a three, while Sean May and Simon scored from the post to put the home team up 18-10 after six minutes. Slaughter stopped the 7-0 run with another two-handed dunk, and after easy bucket by Rancic on one side and Brian Roberts on the other, Jacobsen scored another three-pointer to cut the deficit to 20-17. After a Zagreb timeout, Gavel tied the game with a shot behind the 6.75-meter mark to complete a 0-8 run, and May scored 1 of 2 from the line to make it 21-20 after the first quarter.
Tibor Pleiss scored over Kasun to open the second quarter, and Kasun answered right back with a basket-plus-foul. In a fast-paced game, Pleiss and Predrag Suput tied the score twice with more buckets inside the paint before Mulaomerovic’s three-pointer put Zagreb in front 29-26 midway through the quarter. Julius Jenkins scored a difficult shot and Slaughter made both free throws to put the German champs up by 1 once again, but Simon fired a three and Mulaomerovic made both free throws to give the hosts a 4-point lead. Robert scored a long jumper on one end, and Mulaomerovic on the other, while Gavel scored twice from the line to make it 36-34. That ended up being the halftime score as both teams failed to capitalize on their last two possessions in the final minute of the half.
Suput opened the second half scoring with an easy basket for the sixth tie of the game. Kasun hit a couple of free throws one the other side, but the visitors answered by scoring 7 points on one possession. Jacobsen made a basket-plus-foul, as well as both free throws after the Zagreb head coach was called for a technical foul. On the ensuing possession, Slaughter scored while fouled, but missed the additional free throw and Brose Basket had a 38-43 lead. Simon and Saso Ozbolt cut the deficit for the home side, but Jacobsen made an open three-pointer to put the visiting team up 42-48. After a timeout, Heytvelt hit back-to-back threes assisted by the newly-acquired Ford to tie the game. Roberts made couple of foul shots, but Heytvlet scored another three-pointer to put Zagreb in the lead 51-50 after six minutes in the third quarter. Simon made 2 free throws and Tucker scored the visitors’ first field goal after more than three minutes, but Heytvelt used his hot hand to hit two more threes and make it 59-52. It only took Brose Baskets 90 seconds to make it a 1-point game again by virtue of free throws by Gavel and Jacobsen, but May scored Zagreb’s sixth shot behind the arc in the quarter to make it 62-58 entering the final 10 minutes.
The importance of the game started to really show in the beginning of the fourth quarter as no team scored for more than three minutes. Free throws by Suput ended that drought, and Slaughter added a layup in transition to tie the game at 62-62. Zagreb controlled the defensive boards, but it took them more than four full minutes of the fourth quarter to score, and it was Mulaomerovic and Kasun with 2 free throws apiece. Then Heytvelt stepped up once again. He made a long jumper and on the following possession sank another three-pointer, this time with a hand in his face, and Zagreb had a 71-62 lead. The visitors called a timeout, but it was Heytvelt with a one-handed dunk in transition to give Zagreb its first double-digit lead. Slaughter scored in the paint and Jacobsen’s three-pointer kept the visitors’ hopes alive by bringing them within 6 with two-and-a-half minutes to play. Simon and Roberts exchanged three-pointers, but Simon’s lovely drive to the basket gave Zagreb a 78-70 lead with 1:11 to go and put the game out of Brose Basket’s reach. Slaughter cut the lead to 6, but Mulaomerovic made 2 from the line and it was all over when Jacobsen was called for traveling. In the final seconds, an alley-oop dunk from Kasun assisted by Ford, and a three-pointer by Ante Masic lifted the crowd to its feet as Zagreb kept their chances to advance in its first Euroleague season.
Thursday, November 24, 2011