Barca and Russian duo reach Euroleague top 16
By Zoran Milsovljevic
BELGRADE (Reuters) - Former double Euroleague winners Barcelona reached the competition's second group stage, the Top 16, with three games to spare after a 94-81 home win over already-qualified Fenerbahce Istanbul on Friday.
They were joined by six-time champions CSKA Moscow, who beat Budivelnik Kiev 82-74, and fellow Russians Lokomotiv Kuban as the top flight debutants romped to an 84-53 rout of Lithuanians Lietuvos Rytas.
Thursday's success in Vilnius was followed by more good news for Lokomotiv with coach Evgeny Pashutin on Friday also taking over the Russia team from Vasily Karasev, whose four-month spell ended in an early exit at September's European Championship.
Maccabi Tel Aviv, winners of four Euroleague titles, edged Red Star Belgrade 78-76 before 8,000 passionate Serbian fans, while holders Olympiakos Piraeus and Real Madrid, who booked Top 16 tickets last week, took their perfect starts to seven wins.
Barca ended Fenerbahce's unbeaten run after a furious start gave them a 52-28 lead shortly before the break and, although the visitors later got within four points, a game-high 23 points from forward Bostjan Nachbar steered the home side to victory.
CSKA, in contrast, forced Budivelnik into submission with a strong final quarter after the Ukrainian newcomers held their own for 30 minutes and threatened an upset on the back of 21 points from Blake Ahearn and 16 by new signing Daequan Cook.
Cook, a former Miami Heat and Oklahoma Thunder guard who joined Budivelnik on Saturday, combined well with Ahearn but the more heralded visitors won with a balanced team effort, forward Kyle Hines leading the way on 18 points and six rebounds.
"My players showed good energy at crunch time and that was very important," CSKA's Italian coach Ettore Messina told the competition's official website (www.euroleague.net). Continued...