Towers' revival falls short: Basketball

London Towers 70 Autodor Saratov 75
Click to follow
The Independent Online
After swapping Moscow temperatures of -20C for London's mere chill, Gintaras Einikis might have felt he was back in Atlanta. He played like it.

The 6ft 11in Lithuanian bronze medallist from last summer's Olympics scored 32 points as Russia's Autodor Saratov won last night's first leg European Cup tie at Wembley.

The Budweiser League champions played the first half with only one route to basket, through their American Joe Hooks, and their second-half revival never looked like making home advantage pay.

Einikis scored 18 first-half points as Saratov took a 39-28 lead. The power and economy of their offense bemused London, who failed to deal with Einikis's short-range jump shots and his Lithuanian variation on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's skyhook, while Zakhar Pashoutine hung back and scored from mid-range.

Only Hooks squared up to Saratov's giants in the first half, scoring 13 points. But London's long-range shooting was non-existent after Danny Lewis scored the game's first basket with a three-pointer. From then on, when he or Karl Brown moved to the shooting guard spot, Pashoutine's elder brother, Yevgeny, smothered them.

But Brown, Lewis and Neville Austin finally joined Hooks in the trenches after the break and shared the next 12 points before Hooks cut Saratov's lead to 48-44. But Einikis and the Pashoutines put the freeze back on London before next Wednesday's home leg.

LEADING SCORERS: London: Hooks 19, Lewis 12, Deppish 12, Austin 9. Saratov: Einikis 32, Sepelev 16, Z Pashoutine 16.