A dramatic finish saw BC Siauliai claim a 73-73 tie in the first leg of their EuroCup qualifier against Turkish giant Galatasaray Caf Crown on Tuesday.
Galatasaray used an 18-3 second-half run to overturn an early deficit but just as it looked as though they were cruising to victory, Siauliai came back to bite them in the final seconds.
The Lithuanians had stunned their visitors early on by building a huge lead that reached 17 points, 38-21, when Gintautas Vileita hit a pair of free throws with 4:23 remaining in the first half.
But the strength of the Turkish team shone through late in the game as they fought back.
Dejan Milojevic hit jump-shots that started and finished the run that saw them turn a 10-point deficit into a 61-56 lead with a little under eight minutes left to play.
It looked like they might sail to the finish as they continued to pull away, with Marshall Strickland's three-pointer putting them 73-63 ahead with less than three minutes to go.
But Siauliai had other ideas and Gintaras Kadziulis' three-pointer sparked a 9-0 run that closed the gap to one point, 73-72 with 33 seconds to go.
As Galatasaray tried to set up the winning play, Mindaugas Kuzminskas came up with a crucial steal and Antonio Graves was forced to foul Vileita, sending him the line with a chance to put Siauliai ahead with five seconds on the clock.
Vileita had been a perfect six of six from the line before that moment, but he missed the first shot and Siauliai had to settle for a tie.
Vileita finished with 23 points to lead Siauliai, who also got 19 points from Kadziulis.
Graves scored 25 points for Galatasaray while Milojevic had 20 points and 12 rebounds.
Giedraitis Shrugs Off Vileita's Late Miss
BC Siauliai coach Robertas Giedraitis refused to put any blame on Giantautas Vileita after his late free throw miss cost the team a famous victory over Galatasaray in the EuroCup qualifying first round on Tuesday night.
Leading 73-72 in the dying seconds, Galatasaray had been looking to set up one final scoring play to seal the deal but Mindaugas Kuzminskas came up with a crucial steal and Antonio Graves was forced to foul Vileita, sending him the line with a chance to put Siauliai ahead with five seconds on the clock.
Vileita had been a perfect six of six from the line before that moment, but he missed the first shot and Siauliai had to settle for a 73-73 tie.
Whether or not the missed point will matter or not will only be known after next week's second leg in Istanbul, but Giedraitis was proud of all of his players.
"I am happy with my players because they fought until the end of the game," he said. "The free throw missed by Vileita at the end of the game would not change anything."
Despite the miss, Vileita finished as Siauliai's top scorer on 23 points.
Siauliai had pulled out a big early lead, but Galatasaray used an 18-3 run that straddled the third and fourth quarters to turn the tie on its head and set up the tense finish.
Gintaras Kadzuilis, who had 19 points for Siauliai, believes fatigue caught up with his team at the end.
"We lacked endurance," he said. "We felt so tired that we made a lot of mistakes. We will go to Turkey with only one goal - to win. We will not give up."
They will however, face a tough task next week as Galatasaray will be clear favourites to advance on their home court.
"I think we have a better chance to win in Istanbul," said Antonio Graves - Galatasaray's top-scorer with 25 points. "At home we will play as well as we played during the second half of this game."
However, coach Murat Ozyer was more cautious, acknowledging that Siauliai had shown themselves to be tough opponents.
"Siauliai have some very experienced players," he said. "I remember (Virginijus) Praskevicius when he last played for "Ulker", and Kadziulis, (Andrius) Slezas and then Vileita were great.
"They played better during the first half of the game and our team was stronger during the second half, but at the end of the game we made unforgivable mistakes. The situation is really complicated now. It could be even more difficult for us."