BELGRADE (Reuters) - Barcelona demolished six-times winners CSKA Moscow 81-60 on Friday to stretch their perfect Euroleague basketball record to five victories while holders Olympiakos Piraeus triumphed 84-71 at Emporio Armani Milan.
Joy for Italian fans came from an unlikely source as Mapooro Cantu, who reached the group stages through an eight-team qualifying tournament, blew away Fenerbahce 82-58 to rekindle memories of the club’s glory days.
Last season’s runners-up CSKA saw their unbeaten run end on home court after 2010 winners Barcelona produced an effervescent display in the last three quarters of the game, with inspirational point guard Juan Carlos Navarro pouring in 21 points.
Navarro and Slovenian forward Erazem Lorbek, who chipped in with 15 points against his former club, overshadowed October’s most valuable player in the competition Sonny Weems after Barca’s steely defence restricted the former Toronto Raptors guard to four points.
Although CSKA are still well placed with a 4-1 record midway through the preliminary group stage, defeat left their Italian coach Ettore Messina fuming.
“In basketball you should never ever give up and that’s what we did,” the 53-year-old told the official website (www.euroleague.net).
“When you give up you should apologise to the fans and the club,” added Messina who won Euroleague titles with CSKA in 2006 and 2008 in his first stint at the club and also coached Real Madrid from 2009-11 before spending a year as an assistant at the Los Angeles Lakers.
Olympiakos were on the ropes after two defeats in their opening three games but bounced back with last week’s dramatic home win over newcomers Cedevita Zagreb.
Playmaker Vassilis Spanoulis, the key to last season’s success, nailed five three-pointers to finish with a game-high 23 points against Milan on Friday.
Olympiakos were given a standing ovation by the Italian crowd as they moved into the top half of their section.
“It was like a final for us, both teams needed to win so we prepared well and played a great game at both ends of the court,” Spanoulis said.
“I appreciated the standing ovation from the Milan fans and it means they liked my performance. I try to improve my game every day and so does the team.”
Cantu established themselves as a European powerhouse by landing two successive Euroleague titles in the early 1980s.
They then plunged into the Italian second division in 1994 as former greats Pierluigi Marzorati and Antonello Riva left the club.
Cantu showed glimpses of a bygone era last season when they finished as runners-up to Siena in the domestic league and cup.
The rollercoaster ride reached another peak on Friday after their rout of an expensive Fenerbahce side. Point guard Romain Sato (10) was the only player to score in double figures for the Turkish contenders.
Cantu were led by Belgian guard Jonathan Tabu with 16 points and seven assists while Jeff Brooks and Marco Cusin scored 15 each.
“The first two long-distance shots that I hit gave me confidence and made my game easier,” Tabu said. “I am very happy with the team’s performance as we played strong defence which limited Fenerbahce’s attacking options.”
Coach Andrea Trinchieri added: “This was perhaps one of the best games we’ve played since I’ve been Cantu’s coach and every player contributed to a perfect performance against one of Europe’s best teams.”
Real Madrid, eight-times winners of Europe’s premier club competition, won 89-76 at Slovenians Olimpija Ljubljana while Cedevita registered their first victory by beating Spanish outfit Caja Laboral Vitoria 76-69.
The defeat left 2005 runners-up Caja joint bottom of their section alongside Cedevita with just one win and four defeats.
There was another poor performance by former Chicago Bulls forward Andres Nocioni who scored 12 points but made only three of seven shots from the field for the Spaniards.
Zalgiris Kaunas, the 1999 champions, stretched their impressive start to five wins with a 77-64 triumph at Anadolu Efes Istanbul thanks to 21 points from Croatia guard Marko Popovic who nailed seven of his 10 shots from three-point range.
Editing by Tony Jimenez