VILNIUS (Lithuania) - Falco Szombathely played a stunning first half, hitting 21-of-28 shots from the field, including 6-of-7 from beyond the arc, but not even 53 first half points were enough to escape Vilnius with a victory.
Rytas Vilnius stayed attached until the end of the third quarter, and set the stage for a strong closing quarter behind their fans' song. They avoided the upset, winning the game 91-88.
Turning point: Rytas opened up an 87-82 lead heading into the last two minutes of the game, but Zoltan Perl went on a personal mini-run of four straight points to cut the gap to a single point.
But his run stopped with a pull up jumper bouncing off with 45 seconds left to play. Ivan Buva was fouled on the box out, his free throws sent the margin back to +3.
Perl found a driving lane to cut it to 89-88 with 30.6 left on the game clock, Falco Szombathely opted not to foul, so Rytas drained the shot clock...and got the ball back on a rebound that went out of bounds with six seconds left.
Speedy Smith was then fouled, he knocked down both shots from the line, and Szombathely's had one last chance to tie. After a timeout with four seconds left, coach Milos Konakov dialed Szilard Benke's number, but didn't get the answer he wanted, three-pointer falling short of the target.
Game heroes: Ivan Buva had 20 points with 9 rebounds, Vaidas Kariniauskas added 17 of his own, and Arnas Butkevicius was also in double figures with 13 points. Honorable mention goes to Speedy Smith, he had 9 points, but five of them were clutch, giving Rytas the lead late in the game and protecting it from the line.
Stats don't lie: Falco Szombathely shot the ball extremely well, but they failed to protect their paint, allowing 13 offensive rebounds and giving Rytas a 19-6 edge in second chance points.
Bottom line: Rytas Vilnius opened the group like a boomerang, missing a game-tying three-pointer against SIG Strasbourg, and now it came around for them, surviving a game-tying three-pointer against Falco.
The champions of Hungary showed they are a serious team, but will probably feel heartbroken they ended up 0-2 in two close games against Lenovo Tenerife and Rytas Vilnius.
"We did good today. We needed this victory so bad, we lost three games in a row by three points or so. I'm happy we took this win, I hope our energy will grow from here, and... To be continued." - Vaidas Kariniauskas, Rytas Vilnius
"I would like to give credit to the Falco Szombathely team. It's a really good team. They won the group with AEK, VEF Riga and Treviso, without two main guys they lost a last possession game to Tenerife, and today on the court they showed that. Congratulations for our fans and players, who managed to man up after halftime, because in the first half we just simply let them feel comfortable. We were too soft. But then we built some physicality and deserved the win. Our bench players changed the rhythm of the game. Big congratulations to Jarvis Williams for having his comeback game." - Rytas Vilnius head coach Giedrius Zibenas