TODAY’S – Galatasaray starts Top 16 campaign on winning note

Galatasaray starts Top 16 campaign on winning noteFresh from a tough regular season, Galatasaray Liv Hospital started off the Top 16 campaign with a sweeping 78-69 win over Lithuanian side Zalgiris Kaunas in the opening clash of Group E on Tuesday evening at an empty Abdi Ipeki Arena due to a ban imposed on the hosts.Ergin Atamanandrsquos men earned a ticket to the Top 16 defeating Olympiacos Piraeus in the very last game of the regular season despite all odds that included, among others, injured players and dire financial difficulties.

And Galatasarayandrsquos newfound enthusiasm is apparently taking the Istanbul club to greater heights.andldquoThis [victory] will boost our morale.

We made it to the Top 16 in the last moment, but we proved that weandrsquoll survive here,andrdquo Ataman said in his post-game remarks. While praising his teamandrsquos defensive qualities, the coach said they could have clinched a larger-margin victory had they had the support of their home crowd.

Injury-prone Zoran Erceg returned to action with a 14-point performance against Zalgiris and Sinan Guler scored the same for the winner James Anderson netted 15 points in defeat. Ataman gave playing time to two new players, former Maccabi Tel Aviv center Aleks Maric and Justin Carter, whom the club acquired from fellow Turkish club UIak Sportif ahead of its Top 16 campaign.

There was a close race at the beginning as the Lithuanians were leading 14-12 when a TV time-out was taken. Galatasaray returned with a 6-0 run but could not stop two back-to-back three-pointers by Zalgiris as the visiting side went up 22-20 in the first quarterZalgiris maintained its lead even though Galatasaray tied the score at 35-35 thanks to another 6-0 run, however the visitors responded in the same way and kept their aantage.

Zalgiris had a 41-35 edge going into halftime. Neither side scored a single point in the first two minutes of the second half after which Galatasaray took control.

Atamanandrsquos men put on full-court pressure and took a 57-55 lead in the third quarterThe Istanbul club upped the tempo in the fourth quarter and increased the margin to wrap up the game 79-68.Panathinaikos pounds MaccabiElsewhere in the Euroleague, six-time Euroleague winner Panathinaikos started the competitionandrsquos second group stage with an 83-76 home win over defending champion Maccabi.

Maccabi made a brighter start in Athens and seemed to be in control after carving out a 35-22 lead in the latter stages of the first half, with the home side unable to counter their fast breaks, which resulted in a barrage of spectacular slam dunks.But Panathinaikos stormed back after Montenegrin coach Dusko Ivanovic threw 34-year old playmaker Dimitris Diamantidis into the fray, blunting Maccabiandrsquos offence in the fourth quarterandldquoWe were patient and played better defense in the second half to beat a very good Maccabi side,andrdquo a delighted Ivanovic told Euroleague television.

Uruguayan center Esteban Batista led the Greek outfit with 16 points, Americans James Gist and AJ Slaughter added 15 apiece and Diamantidis finished with 11 points and seven assists.Brian Randle and Nate Linhart netted 18 points each for Maccabi and athletic center Alex Tyus also stood out with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman