The will to survive in Group B inspired Montepaschi to a huge 79-73 home win against co-leader CSKA Moscow on Thursday before an ecstatic sellout crowd in Siena. The victory lifted Montepaschi to 4-4 and part of a three-way tie for fourth place in Group B. CSKA, which played without forward Victor Khryapa, fell to 6-2 but did not lose its status as co-leader because Maccabi also lost at Unicaja. Roberto Chiacig led the way for Montepaschi with 16 points. He was followed by David Vanterpool, who hit 3 of 4 shots from downtown among his 14 points. Dusan Vukcevic added 12 for the winners, including 4 clutch free throws in the closing minute. For CSKA, J.R. Holden was the top scorer with 19 points, while Marcus Brown drilled 15. Victor Alexander scored 11 points in 12 minutes, while Mirsad Turkcan bagged 8 points and 11 rebounds, but couldn't see his new team overcome his former one in the thrilling final.
Chiacig opened the game with a winning tap-in and Giacomo Galanda added a triple for a 5-0 Montepaschi spark. CSKA didn't wait long to answer. Turkcan, playing again before the Siena crowd, drilled 6 points in a row. Aleksey Savrasenko added an easy two-pointer and the guests took their first lead, 5-8. The match caught fire with a pair of triples, one shot off-balance by Bootsy Thornton of Montepaschi and answered from the corner by Sergei Monya. Montepaschi went ahead 17-15 thanks to Chiacig, well-assisted by his team mates. Holden tied with his first points on a fastbreak and soon Brown drove deep for a layup but David Andersen came off the Montepaschi bench for a low-post basket to put the locals up 20-19 after 10 minutes.
CSKA found Turkcan early in the second quarter, but after that Montepaschi built an 11-2 run to a key 32-24 edge as Andersen went on attacking the basket. Vrbica Stefanov and Vanterpool each sank a triple, but CSKA stayed close thanks to a beautiful basket by Holden and Dragan Tarlac's three trips to the line. Vanterpool kept Montepaschi ahead by 8 until Holden returned and scored a mid-range jumper that Theo Papaloukas followed with 2 free throws to make it 35-31. Vukcevic and Vanterpool ensured continuous drives from the perimeter for Montepaschi, while CSKA relied on Tarlac near the rims, though he missed some free throws that came his way. Mikalis Kakiouzis gave Montepaschi its maximum lead, 43-34, going into the half.
Moscow returned with Alexander on the court for the first time and he presented his business card, a smooth turnaround jumper. Montepaschi continued playing a good basketball, however, and Vanterpool fired the hosts to a 51-40 lead from the arc. CSKA found its reaction in Brown, who assisted Alexander and shot in a triple which Holden then copied. But the visitors still weren't able to climb closer to Montepaschi because of 4 straight points by Chiacig. Thornton returned in the game with a sweet triple, but Holden matched him from downtown. Alexander pushed CSKA within 60-56 with a basket-plus-foul shot, but Chiacig answered again. The fans exploded then asVanterpool hit the triple on the shot-clock buzzer and the home team took a 65-56 lead at the end of the third period.
The final quarter started with the bomb by Stefanov and a Chiacig layup for commanding 70-56 Montepaschi lead. A Chiacig block and Andersen jumper kept the lead at 72-61, but Holden and Brown refused to quit and fired CSKA within 5 points, 73-68, with 2 minutes to play. Soon, Tarlac scored to make it 73-70, and when Stefanov failed a triple, Holden's 2 free throws made it a one-point game, 73-72. Thornton made 1 of 2 from the line and Turkcan failed the corner triple. Andersen rebounded and was fouled, making 1 shot for 75-72. CSKA had 40 seconds to complete its resurrection and twice shot the triple to tie, but both Turkcan and Holden were off balance and that left Vukcevic the chance to close the match from the line, which he did, putting Montepaschi's crowd in heaven for the night.
Thursday, January 8, 2004