Nikola Vucurovic hit a free throw with four seconds remaining as RheinEnergie Köln advanced to the EuroCup second round on Tuesday with a hard-fought 79-75 victory against Basket Groot Leuven in Group B.
Vucurovic kept his nerves after missing the first free throw - Köln's sixth miss at the line in the final four minutes - to finally hold off a valiant comeback attempt by the Belgians.
|Ian Hanavan's 26 points were not enough for Leuven|
Janar Talts's free throw gave Sasa Obradovic's team a 72-53 advantage with 6:35 left.
The Belgians then began their fightback.
Tommy Johnson hit two three-pointers and Ian Hanavan continued his hot shooting night as Groot went on a 19-3 tear to pull within three points, 75-72, after Hanavan's jump shot with 52 seconds remaining.
With 28 ticks left, Marcin Gortat rebounded Immanuel McElroy's errant three-point attempt, tipped it in and was fouled. The young Polish prospect buried his free throw to make it 78-72.
After Johnson's jumpshot trimmed the lead to 78-74, Johannes Strasser missed two free throws with 10 seconds left, keeping Leuven's hopes alive.
Gortat fouled Antanas Vilcinskas with nine seconds to go in the battle for the rebound, and he had a chance to close the gap further.
Vilcinskas made the first, but missed the second and when Vucurovic made one of two from the line, the four-point cushion was enough to see the visitors to victory.
He finished with 16 points.
Hanavan and McElroy put on a shootout in the first quarter as Hanavan scored eight of his team-high 26 points in the first 10 minutes.
But McElroy scored his team's first seven points and 13 overall as Köln led 24-21 after one period.
Vucurovic picked up the scoring slack in the second frame for the Germans as he struck for nine points as RheinEnergie pushed out to a 44-35 cushion at half-time.
RheinEnergie shot a blistering 63% from the field for the game as McElroy's 18 points paced five Köln players in double figures. Glenn McGowan had 17, Gortat 13 and Talts 10 for Obradovic's team, which was playing without Aleksandar Nadjfeji - out with a rib injury.
Chistopher Watson scored 15 points for Leuven while Johnson added 10 points and Vilcinskas collected 13 rebounds.