BC Kyiv broke the hearts of Fenerbahce fans by beating the FIBA Europe League Final Four hosts 88-72 on Wednesday night to reach the title game.
Kyiv stormed out to an early 17-4 lead and romped to victory.
The closest Fenerbahce would get the rest of the way was when they closed to within nine points at 45-36 early in the third quarter.
Fenerbahce suffered a nightmare start to the game as their offense shuddered to an almost complete halt in the opening 10 minutes. The Turkish side made 5/15 field goals and just 3/9 free throws for 15 first quarter points.
Kyiv, on the other hand, were calm and composed, led by a red-hot Sergey Chikalkin who tallied 9 points in 10 minutes of action.
The deficit left Fenerbahce with the task of chasing the lead for the remainder of the contest.
"We spent the entire game trying to catch up," said Fenerbahce coach Aydin Ors. "They had such a high percentage on their shots whereas we did not and we just couldn’t do it."
Fenerbahce cut the lead to single digits on several occasions, but were never able to really threaten Kyiv. The Turkish side relied almost solely on the three-point shot to trigger a comeback, attempting a total of 36 three-pointers (the 6th highest in the FIBA Europe League this year) and making just 12.
"We played a great game, everybody was concentrated, everybody did exactly what they were supposed to," said Kyiv coach Renato Pasquali. "That's why we played, I would say, the perfect game on defense."
Kyiv faced the potentially dangerous situation of maintaining a large lead for a long period of time, especially in an atmosphere of 12,000 rabid home fans. But Pasquali's players were prepared for anything that Fenerbahce could throw at them, notably their zone defense.
"We were ready," said Pasquali.
"We watched tapes and we were ready to attack 30 minutes of zone defense. What I put in the mind of players was, don't think that we have to attack the zone with the three-point shot. It's the biggest mistake we could do. That's why we wanted to move the ball inside and look for the people cutting through and penetrating against the zone. We were patient and took good shots."
Kyiv did that to perfection in the third quarter, outscoring Fenerbahce 20-13 and finishing the period with a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Edmunds Valeiko to take a 65-47 lead into the final 10 minutes.
Pasquali also alluded to the homecourt advantage, a fact which he felt hindered Fenerbahce's chances.
"When we had to organise the Final Four in Kiev, I was afraid that our team would have too much pressure to play home, in front of 7, 8,000 people," he said.
"When we found out that we couldn't run the final four in Kiev, and had to come to Istanbul, the first thing I told the team was, guys, I'm dissapointed for our fans that we couldn't play in front of them. On the other way, now we transfer the pressure on Fenerbahce. And I think that the way they played tonight, the shooting percentage, probably was due to the pressure."
Another factor was strong Kyiv defense, most notably against Fenerbahce star Damir Mrsic. Averaging over 20 ppg going into the contest, Mrsic was held to just 6 points on 1/9 shooting, including 1/7 from the three-point line.
"He (Mrsic) uses a lot of pick-and-roll situations," explained Pasquali.
"Giannoulis did a great job because he ran out of the screen and forced him into the halfcourt instead of letting him go to the basket. He was too far away, because when he goes left, he prefers to use his right shoulder to shoot the three. And tonight he couldn't do it because Giannis forced him 2 metres away from the three-point line. He did a great job."
In a balanced Kyiv offensive display, 4 players reached double figures, led by Sergey Chikalkin with a season high 17 points.
Omer Onan top scored for Fenerbahce with 25 points but fouled out in the fourth quarter.