Virtus Bologna staged a brilliant late fightback to down BC Kalev 85-82 on Wednesday and book their spot in the quarter-finals of the EuroCup.
Virtus looked to be suffering a hangover from their heart-breaking late defeat to Benetton Treviso in the Coppa Italia final at the weekend, as they trailed for much of the match in Estonia.
|Brett Blizzard (Virtus Bologna) |
And it all looked as good as over for Zare Markovski's side as a Catalin Burlacu jump shot put hosts Kalev 61-50 ahead with just 59 seconds remaining in the third period.
But Virtus raced down the other end immediately after Burlacu's basket and an Ilian Evtimov three-pointer helped spark a remarkable turnabout in fortune for the Italian side.
A Christian Drejer dunk just before the end of the period further reduced the deficit to 61-55, and then red-hot Virtus outscored their opponents 30-21 in the last quarter to take the three-point victory.
Virtus would have been desperate for an immediate response to Sunday's Coppa Italia final defeat, where they lost 67-65 to Benetton despite not going behind until the last 45 seconds of the match.
But a 7-0 run early on puts hosts Kalev in control at 14-9 and they extended that advantage to 26-17 by the end of the third period, Valmo Kriisa and Burlacu both scoring nine points apiece for the home side.
Virtus responded at the start of the second period and Vlado Ilievski's three-pointer actually put them ahead at 31-30 midway through the quarter.
But Kalev, who had lost all four of their Round II matches before this one, enjoyed another purple patch as they scored 11 unanswered points to take a 41-31 lead at the interval.
Kalev continued to hold their opponents at arm's length during the third period, but Evitmov's three-pointer gave Virtus something to build on and they moved up a gear in the final 10 minutes to record their fourth win in five Group L matches.
Brett Blizzard led five Virtus players into double figures, pacing his side with 18 points, three rebounds and four assists.
However, the leading individual in the game was on Kalev's side, with Burlacu pouring in 23 points and grabbing seven rebounds, while his team-mate Travis Reed weighed in with 18 points and 12 rebounds.
Daniele Cavicchi, Virtus' assistant coach who served as a head coach for this game, said "I was happy that we won this game, especially since our head coach (Zare Markovski) stayed in Italy due to illness."
"We played good first three quoters, then they started making some important three-pointers," added BC Kalev coach Veselin Matic.
"I think our game was somewhat hurt because our point guard [Kriisa] quickly picked up his first three fouls in the first quarter."