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09.11.2008 14:59

Estudiantes win at the Palau (71-72)

Carles Cascante

Luis Casimiro’s Estudiantes have unexpectedly beaten Barça’s basketball side at the Palau Blaugrana, the first home loss of the season for a Regal Barça side whose best player was Juan Carlos Navarro (22 points).

Despite defeat, Regal FC Barcelona stay among the ACB leaders following Malaga’s loss at another of the top sides, Kalise Grande Canaria (74-68). The game with MMT Estudiantes was heavily affected by the stuttering start by Xavi Pascual’s side, which ended with a ten point lead being inexcusably surrendered in the final minutes. Some poor shooting, especially for three pointers, and some uncharacteristic losses of possession typified a game in which the home side simply weren’t up to their usual level.

Contagiously poor start

QM3D3572.jpgEstudiantes started strong, with Wideman and Popovic both taking forward roles, and the score was soon 2-6, with a Navarro three pointer narrowing the early gap. With two minutes of the period left, a three pointer from former Barça man Junyent made it 7-15. The Madrid based side was dominating in rebounds (11-8), while Barça’s 1/11 in three point attempts was quite simply awful.

In the second period, Barrett started in place of Lakovic, and that was not the only change, for Pascual employed a constant rotation system as he sought to maintain the tension. Juan Carlos Navarro was the one it infected the most, the former Memphis man’s fifth point made it 21-27, and he had seven more to come that period. But two visiting free throws just before the break made the half-time score 30-34.

The stars awaken

QM3D3562.jpgBarcelona reacted in the second half. The third period was their best (22-12), characterised by a marked improvement in defence and better contributions from Ersan Ilyasova to add to Juan Carlos Navarro’s excellence. It looked like Barça had finally gained control of the match, but it turned out to be a false awakening. They had seen 16 possessions turned over by the end of the third period, but did finally clawed into a lead (35-34). With Lakovic benched after taking a knock, Barça managed to hold on and things went into the final ten minutes standing at (52-46) following an André Barrett three.

The final period didn’t start badly for Regal Barça, and few could have predicted at this stage just how horribly wrong things were going to end for the home side. Popovic and Wideman looked to be safely under control, and Estudiantes were forced to rely on long shots, where only Udrih was getting much fortune. Barça seized the moment and were soon ten up (56-46) following an expert score from Fran Vázquez, who finally coming into his own.

QM3D3584.jpgIt looked like Barcelona had the game in the bag, and then everything fell apart in the final minutes. Almost as if they thought they had already finished the job, they allowed Estudiantes far too much space when there was still enough time on the clock for the visiting side to stage a comeback. Which they did. Free throws from Jansen and a three from Iturbe with a minute left meant all of a sudden it was 69 apiece. In an extraordinary finale, Estudiantes won a peculiar game in which Barcelona simply were not up to their usual level.

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