Proteas Backcourt Fires Team Past Spartak

22.01.2008

Proteas EKA AEL edged Spartak St. Petersburg 81-77 in Russia in Tuesday's EuroCup Qualifying Round to climb into first in Group C.

The Cypriot club is now level at 3-2 with KK Zagreb, who suffered a one-point defeat at Olympia in Greece.

Duane Woodward led Proteas with 18 points and seven assists, but it was his American compatriot, Ryan Randle, , who came to the rescue in crunch time.

With Proteas clinging to a 78-77 lead with just 33 seconds on the clock, Woodward missed a three-pointer.

But Randle got the offensive rebound and with eight seconds left made a jumper and drew a foul from Dmitri Nikolaev.

Randle, who finished with 11 points, converted the three-point play to seal the victory.

Spartak's Joseph Troy Smith and Anton Yudin missed consecutive attempts from behind the arc as Proteas held on for the win.

Winning coach Charles Barton said: "I'm really happy that we finally won because we had big problems during this game and made it back after 16 points.

"And I especially want to thank Duane Woodward.

"We need him to win big games like today and I'm sure that our problems in the first half were because of using Woodward incorrectly.

"Of course we played good defense in the second half, but I'm sure that the key reason of the win is the good game of Woodward and Vasiliy Zavoruev.

"They controlled the game from the perimeter and opened the space for our big men."

Early on, it looked as if Spartak might run away for a big win.

The hosts stormed out to a 20-11 lead but Proteas hit back with a 14-4 run that bridged the first and second quarters for a 25-24 lead.

With the score at 32-30, Spartak went on a 13-2 surge to take a seemingly commanding 45-32 lead with one minute to go in the first half.

Led by Smith's hot-hand, Spartak extended the gap to 16 points (53-37) less than three minutes into the second half.

But the visitors slowly battled their way back into the game and Zavoruev's three-ball with eight minutes left saw the Cypriots go in front, 64-63.

The hosts would end up with one more lead at  68-66, but they didn't have enough to hold off Proteas and Woodward.

The visitors were superior shooting the ball from long range, making nine of 17 (52%) while Spartak were seven of 23 (30.4%).

Brazilian center Rafael Paulo De Lara Araujo and Smith had 21 points apiece in defeat.

Spartak are bottom of the group with just one victory after five games played.

Igors Miglinieks, the Spartak boss, was up against the team he coached earlier this season before parting ways.


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