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Galatasaray fights its way to European basketball's Mecca

ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News | 10/3/2011 12:00:00 AM |

A win over Rytas see Galatasaray claw its way to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague for the first time. The Lions join Efes and Fener in Europe’s top basketball league.

Galatasaray managed to advance to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague for the first time in its history after winning the preliminary rounds.

The Lions overcame Lietuvos Rytas 71-63 at Siemens Arena in Vilnius, Lithuania, to advance to the regular season of the top-level club competition in European basketball. Galatasaray last played in the early rounds of the Euroleague in 1990 but had never advanced to group stage action.

Galatasaray joined the likes of Anadolu Efes and Fenerbahçe Ülker as the third Turkish side in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague, of which the final four matches will be played in Istanbul as well.

Head Coach Oktay Mahmuti’s men will play in Euroleague Group D with Asseco Prokom, FC Barcelona Regal, Montepaschi Siena, Unics Kazan and Union Olimpija.

However, Mahmuti was too relieved after the game to think about the group stage.

“I’ll drink a glass of wine now and later start thinking about the Euroleague,” Mahmuti said during the post-match conference.

“I suppose we were ready to win this game and it’s a very important win against a powerful team with great tradition,” he added. “We managed to control the game, which is hard to do in this gym because the local fans know basketball very well. Defense was the key.”

Preston Shumpert paced the Galatasaray attack with 14 points off the bench, Josh Shipp and Luksa Andric added 12 apiece and Jaka Lakovic tallied 10 points and five assists for the winners.

“I think we started the game quite sensibly, but we were terrible during the last two minutes of the first quarter,” Mahmuti said. “Later, we gained quite an advantage which looked big enough, but Lietuvos Rytas hit some crazy triples toward the end.”

The teams proceeded to trade baskets with Seibutas, tying the game at 11-11 with a triple and then getting a nifty left-handed drive to fall on the next possession. Lawrence Roberts’ steal led to another Jeretin capped a 13-2 finish to the opening quarter as Rytas put it at 21-13 on the scoreboard.

After trailing for some time, Galatasaray used a 13-2 run to take a 30-28 halftime lead and continued to add to it throughout the second half.

Renaldas Seibutas scored 11 first-quarter points for Rytas but quieted after that and finished with 15.

Big men Darius Songaila on the offensive glass and Andric from the line kept Galatasaray ahead, but Valanciunas made sure Rytas stayed within striking distance. Shipp went through Valanciunas for a basket-and-foul as the Galatasaray advantage jumped to 45-38.

A late surge helped Rytas cut the gap to four with 2:16 on the clock, but Tutku Açık found Andric for an open layup on the next play, and when Jeretin was called for traveling, it meant the victory for Galatasaray.

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