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Szolnok Shut Down Tartu To Reach F4

18.03.2014

EUROCHALLENGE PLAY-OFFS

44. Péter Lóránt (Szolnoki Olaj)
Péter Lóránt was one of the cornerstones of Szolnoki Olaj's convincing win at Tartu

Szolnoki Olaj suffocated Tartu University Rock 78-60 on the road on Tuesday in the do-or-die Game 3 of their quarter-final play-off series to claim the last ticket to the 2014 EuroChallenge Final Four.

The Hungarian side will face Triumph Lyubertsy in the semi-finals, in what will be their second appearance in the Final Four tournament in three years.

In stark contrast to the high-scoring first two games in this series, Game 3 proved a rather cagey affair with both opponents looking overly cautious and unwilling to open up the pace during the first half.

Szolnoki were comfortable allowing Tartu to take long-range shots, but with the occasion weighing heavily on players' shoulders the hosts went only 2-of-9 from beyond the arc early on and their confidence was visibly dented.

The visitors made good use of Marton Bader's towering presence down low and although the big man was not on his best shooting night he drew a foul almost on every other touch and kept his calm from the charity stripe, scoring 10 points in the first half on 8-of-10 free throws.

Gert Dorbek was at this stage the only Tartu player able to connect with the basket on a regular basis and, were it not for his 12 first-half points, often on daring long two-point shots from six meters out, Szolnoki would have had led by more than 32-29 at the half-time break.

When Justin Holiday got the hot hand from beyond the arc in the third quarter,  Szolnoki found some offensive rhythm and managed to pull away with relative ease and maintain their hosts at arm's length until the end.

Peter Lorant with a lay-up made it 43-34 for Szolnoki with 4:06 remaining in the third and forced Tartu coach Gert Kullamäe to call early his second time-out after the break, no doubt aware of the significance of a nine-point lead in such a low-scoring game.

Once play resumed however, Tartu turned the ball over and Bader with an imperial dunk gave Szolnoki a 45-34 lead, the first time the gap reached double digits on the night.

Szolnoki went into the final frame leading 51-39 but the daring Augustas Peciukevicius scored eight of his 10 points within just four minutes to breath some life into the Tartu offence and the Estonians reduced to 58-50.

This was as close as the hosts would get though, as Holiday received the ball on the left wing 4:58 from the final buzzer and sunk his fourth triple on the night to restore Szolnoki's double-digit lead, 61-50.

On the next possession, David Vojvoda hit a fade-away long two at the end of the shot-clock and after Tartu squandered two opportunities to cut the gap off successive offensive rebounds, Bader made it 65-51 from the foul line as there was only 3:37 left to play.

Bader and Holiday led the way for Szolnoki with 18 points apiece, while Lorant collected a double-double of 15 points and 13 rebounds.

Dorbek went without a score in the second half and finished with 12 points, while Tanel Kurbas had 11 points for Tartu in defeat.

 


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