Union Olimpija Ljubljana got back its share of first place in Group B by defeating Buducnost in Podgorica on Thursday by a convincing 81-100. The win lifts Olimpija to 7-3 to tie with Tau and Panathinaikos atop the group, while Buducnost drops to 2-8 and virtually out of Top 16 contention. After the opening tipoff had to to be delayed 15 minutes due to scoreboard malfunction, the game was quite balanced during the first three quarters despite the constant leads of the guests. But in the last quarter only Olimpija existed. The best scorers for the winners were Vladimer Boisa with 18 points, Goran Jurak with 16 and Josko Poljak with 14. On the other side, John Brown led Buducnost with 18 points, Aleksandar Smiljanic added 16 and Dejan Milojevic bagged 14.
A new starting five, with Goran Bakic and Walsh Jordan instead of Ivan Koljevic and Aleksandar Pavlovic, got Buducnost started early with a basket from Milojevic and a three by Jordan. Nonetheless, the Slovenian champs reacted fast under the direction of Vlatko Ilievski, the rebounding of Jurak and the long-range shots of Boisa and Marino Bazdaric. As such, Olimpija was already leading by 12 midway through the first quarter, 7-19. Buducnost's new head coach, Miodrag Baletic, now sent Smiljanic and Pavlovic on court, which seemed to settle down the hosts, even though the lead for Olimpija at the end of the period was 17-27.
In the second quarter, Buducnost committed too many turnovers on offense, while Olimpija did the opposite, prolonging its possessions with offensive rebounds en route to a newly comfortable lead of 22-37, the maximum so far. When teenage guard Koljevic stepped on court to replacing Jordan, however, Buducnost's offense started to work. He and Brown, who woke up at the same time, combined to power Buudcnost on a 15-2 run that transformed the scoreboard to 37-39 in minute 17. That comeback coincided with the absences of Jurak and Boisa, who were resting on the Olimpija bench. Their replacements, Poljak and Jasmin Hukic, were not at the same level. With a three by Koljevic, Buducnost pulled within 2 points once again, 45-47, but Roberts Stelmahers responded in kind to make it 45-50. Just the same, Buducnost could be happy to be as close as 48-52 at the break.
The third quarter was very similar to the first two: Olimpija was always ahead, and Buducnost was always close, but the hosts never managed to tie the score. After a three by Koljevic for 53-57, Olimpija reacted with baskets from Vlatko Ilievski and Stipe Modric to lengthen the lead to 53-61. Baletic tried to change things by bringing in veteran guard Gavrilo Pajovic, and in the following minutes, with some points by Pavlovic and a three-point play by Brown, Buducnost had the deficit down to a single point again, 64-65. More than 3 minutes remained in the quarter, but the hopes of the Buducnost fans didn't last that long. Olimpija reacted with a pair of threes by Petar Dujmovic, then an unsportsmanlike foul called on Pajovic allowed the guests to forge a new 10-point lead after 30 minutes, 68-78.
The last quarter was a mere formality as Olimpija hit a 0-6 run in the first minute that broke the game open, 68-84. Mahoric now sat his best players in order to give some minutes to his bench, which took advantage to increase the final margin to 19 points, 81-100.
Thursday, January 9, 2003