Fenerbahce’s defense locks Zalgiris in Kaunas 0

Shaking off the absence of a couple key players, Fenerbahce Istanbul put the brakes on host Zalgiris Kaunas in the second half to post a huge 67:76 road win in the Game of the Week on Thursday before an active crowd of 12,000-plus at Zalgirio Arena.

Fenerbahce, playing without key contributors Kostas Sloukas and Jan Vesely, lifted its record to 16-8 and solidified its fourth-place standing. Zalgiris fell to 10-14 and remains in 10th place.

A 31:30 lead for Zalgiris at the half disappeared under little-used Melih Mahmutoglu’s 4 three-pointers in the third quarter while Ekpe Udoh led the Fenerbahce defense to shut down any Zalgiris comeback tries. Udoh had a stellar night with 16 points, 7 rebounds, a career-high 5 assists and 4 blocks. Mahmutoglu had 14 points along with Bogdan Bogdanovic, who recorded 7 steals, the most in his career or in the EuroLeague this season. Bobby Dixon added 12 points and 9 assists for the winners.

Paulius Jankunas led Zalgiris with 15 points and moved into 10th place on the EuroLeague’s list of all-time scorers with 2,390 total, moving ahead of the great J.R. Holden. Kevin Pangos added 11 points, all in the fourth quarter, and Brock Motum 10 for Zalgiris.

Leo Westermann found Augusto Lima for a reverse that Anthony Bennett of Fenerbahce answered with a triple for his first-ever EuroLeague points. Westermann soon hit his team’s first three-pointer for a 5:5 tie. James Nunnally was the next to strike from deep, for the visitors, then Westermann and Dixon traded the same blows as Fenerbahce stayed ahead 10:11. Udoh’s second jumper was met by a neat first basket from Lukas Lekavicius, but Bogdanovic answered from downtown at 12:16. A three-point play by Jankunas kept the hosts close until Motum hit free throws for a new Zalgiris lead, 17:16. Udoh’s second block already set up a big triple by Pero Antic as Fenerbahce seized back a 17:19 advantage after 10 minutes.

Udoh and Motum got their team’s going with early second-quarter baskets before Bogdanovic struck from distance at 19:24. The defenses took over until Motum’s open triple and 4 of 4 free throws by Jankunas put Zalgiris ahead 28:26. Bogdanovic hit Fenerbahce’s first free throws of the game to tie before Motum’s quick-strike triple gave Zalgiris a 31:28 lead. Kalinic stole and sent Udoh ahead for a buzzer-beating dunk and the minimum difference at halftime, 31:30.

Kalinic gave the lead back to Fenerbahce right after halftime before Lekavicius hit from deep, but Melih Mahmutoglu drilled a pair from the same distance for the guests. When Westermann banked in a runner, it was all tied up, 38:38. Udoh scored in close and Lekavicius answered, but Mahmutoglu was ready with his third triple. Udoh upped the Fenerbahce lead to 42:47 but Jankunas and Renaldas Seibutis reeled it back to 46:47. Mahmutoglu was unconscious, however, as he drilled his fourth triple in a row, prompting a Zalgiris timeout. Seibutis got a basket back, but Mahmutoglu and Kalinic combined on 3 of 4 free throws and Udoh’s made a steal and a layup to end the quarter 48:55.

Where Mahmutoglu left off, Pangos picked up for Zalgiris with a pair of triples to open the final quarter and suddenly make it a one-point game, 54:55. When Edgaras Ulanovas put back a Pangos miss, Zalgiris seized the lead again, but Luigi Datome responded with his first basket and the accompanying free throw for Fenerbahce. Then he followed with a corner triple and, after a timeout, Udoh exploded a dunk at 56:63. A jumper by Jankunas helped Zalgiris, but Dixon drilled a triple and Bogdanovic drove strong for the biggest lead of the game, 58:68, with 4 minutes left.