Alba Berlin improved its situation in Group C and stayed in the fight to reach the elimination rounds by beating Lukoil Academic 70-76 in Sofia, Bulgaria on Tuesday. Alba improved to 3-4 in the Group C standings and will at least tie for the fourth place at the end of this round. Meanwhile, Lukoil dropped to 4-3 and faces Hapoel Migdal next week in a critical game for both teams. Sharrod Ford led the winners with 19 points on 9-for-11 shooting. Julius Jenkins added 16, Will Avery had 14, Chris Owens tallied 11 and Johannes Herber 10 for Alba. Riste Stefanov led Lukoil with a ULEB Cup career-high of 32 points on 11-for-15 shooting, Lamont Jones added 11 while Lamont Barnes grabbed 10 rebounds for the hosts. Alba dominated the game since the early going, as Ford led a 4-16 opening run which allowed the guests to keep a 37-47 halftime margin. Stefanov helped Lukoil to recover in the third quarter, but Jenkins fueled a 0-9 run which made it a 15-point game, 47-62. Lukoil never surrendered, as a red hot Stefanov brought the hosts within 70-73. Nenad Canak and Herber combined for 3 of 4 free throws to seal the win in the final 24 seconds.
Ford opened the score with a running layup while Avery added a fast break basket for a 0-4 Alba lead. Jones got Lukoil going with an off-balanced jumper and Mate Skelin soon scored in the low post, but Ford singlehandedly kept Alba ahead, 4-7. The hosts struggled to score early, while Owens, Avery and Jenkins scored respective baskets to make Lukoil call timeout at 4-14. A red hot Ford capped a 0-10 Alba run and soon added a jumper, as Stefanov and Gjorgji Cekovski tried to wake Lukoil up with respective baskets. Stefanov buried Lukoil's first triple but Avery answered from downtown to give Alba a 12-point lead, 11-23. Stefanov nailed another shot to get Lukoil within 13-23 after 10 minutes. Alba stayed aggressive in defense, focusing on Jones and Todor Stoykov. Meanwhile, Avery shined with a put-back layup while Herber buried one from downtown to make it a 15-point game, 13-28. Taliek Brown stepped up with consecutive baskets, but a jump hook by Ford and back-to-back triples by Jenkins and Avery allowed Alba to stay out of trouble at 22-36. Barnes and Jenkins traded basket while Herber buried a corner three-pointer to force Lukoil to call timeout, 24-41, after 16 minutes. Barnes took over with 6 points in a 11-2 Lukoil run, as Alba now struggled against the hosts' zone defense. Ford shined with a dunk and a second-chance layup ut free throws by Stefanov brought Lukoil within 37-47 at halftime.
Stefanov kept pacing Lukoil with a triple and a floating jumper to get the hosts within 42-49. Avery made free throws but Stoykov buried a three-pointer - his first basket - for a 45-51 Lukoil deficit. Ford took over with a put-back basket which Stefanov matched with a step-back jumper. Avery returned to the bench with 4 fouls but Ford kept pacing Alba with an outstanding dunk while the guests managed to readjust their defense. Owens made free throws which Jenkins followed with a layup and a three-point play, as Lukoil had lost control. The hosts went scoreless for 4 minutes until Stefanov buried a triple, but it only brought Lukoil within 50-62 after three quarters. Jenkins opened the fourth quarter with free throws and a dunk. Jones hit a three-pointer and Skelin scored inside, and by the time Stefanov added a floating layup, Lukoil was within 57-66 with 7 minutes to go. Jones scored twice in the paint, but Canak kept Alba ahead, 61-70. The hosts were running out of time and committed consecutive turnovers, but a three-pointer by Stefanov gave Lukoil some hope, 64-70, with 3 minutes to go. Stoykov added a fast break layup but Herber bettered it with a three-point play. Free throws by Skelin and a fast break layup by Stefanov got the hosts within 70-73 with 28.9 seconds remaining. Canak sealed the win with foul shots with 23.4 seconds to go, while another free throw by Herber allowed Alba to get its second road win in Group C.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006