Union Olimpija clung to its Top 16 chances out of Group A by beating Lottomatica Roma 87-68 in Ljubljana, Slovenia, on Thursday night. Olimpija improved to 5-7 and joined a four-way tie along with Partizan, Pau-Orthez and AEK for the fourth spot in Group A. Lottomatica fell to dead last in Group A at 4-8 and must win both its remaining games, versus Cibona and Pau, to retain any chances of making the next round. Simon Petrov led the winners with 26 points on 4 of 4 two-pointers, 4 of 7 threes and 6 of 6 free throws. Roberts Stelmahers added 23, all in the second half, on 3 of 5 three-pointers and 10 of 12 free throws, while Vladimir Boisa had 13 and Marko Maravic 12 for Olimpija. Corey Alexander and Carlton Myers led Lottomatica with 17 points apiece. Alexander had 3 of 3 three-pointers and 4 of 4 free throws while Myers drilled 5 of 8 from downtown. Rashard Griffith added 11 while Marko Tusek had 10 for the guests.
Despite an early basket by Tusek, Olimpija controlled the game early, as a fast break layup by Petrov gave Olimpija a 6-2 run after 2 minutes. Griffith was dominating the paint, scoring 4 early points, but he picked up his second foul midway through the first quartre and had to go to the bench. Lottomatica got its first lead, 10-11, after a put-back by Tusek and a three-pointer from the corner by Alexander. Olimpija fired back with a jump hook by Dzenan Rahimic and a three by Maravic to regain the lead at 15-11. Lottomatica stayed in the game and a two-handed fastbreak slam by Cal Bowdler cut Olimpija's lead to a point until 2 free throws from Petrov put the hosts ahead 20-17 after 10 minutes.
Olimpija started the second quarter with a 6-0 run consisting of an Aloysius Anagonye basket in the paint and back to back jumpers by Petrov. The hosts went ahead 26-17, which caused Lottomatica to try a zone defense that proved ineffective against a super Petrov. He punished the zone with 2 three-pointers, extending Olimpija's lead to 32-21. Lottomatica switched back to man-to-man defense, while Olimpija tightened its defense and gave up only a four-point play by Myers. Both teams struggled to score for more than 3 minutes, in which the only point scored was a free throw by Griffith. A three-pointer by Marino Badzaric, his first points of the game, gave Olimpija its biggest lead at 35-22, but Griffith and Alexander, with his second three-pointer, brought the guests within 35-26 at halftime.
Lottomatica got back on track with a 2-11 run to open the third quarter, as Olimpija's defense allowed Myers to drill 2 uncontested threes while Griffith added a three-point play and Davide Bonora a reverse layup to help Lottomatica complete a rapid comeback, as the guests were within 38-37. Olimpija called timeout and when the teams were back in action Stelmahers stepped up, scoring 5 points to prevent Lottomatica from taking back the lead. A basket by Lubos Barton made it a one-point game, 45-44, before Boisa, with three consecutive baskets, gave Olimpija a seven-point cushion at 51-44. A rain of threes followed in both sides of the court, as Stelmahers, Barton, Boisa and Myers exchanged triples in successive trips down the court. Olimpija took a 62-54 edge at the end of the third quarter following an easy basket by Maravic and a three-pointer by Bazdaric at the buzzer.
Free throws by Stelmahers and a three-pointer by Petrov extended Olimpija's lead to 67-54 at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Myers nailed a three and Lottomatica continued to fight behind Tusek and Alexander, but the hosts held on to their double-digit lead. Lottomatica went into the bonus after commiting too many fouls early in the quarter and after 4 free throws by Stelmahers and Petrov, Olimpija was ahead 76-66. It was do or die for Lottomatica, but the guests only scored 2 points in the final 3 minutes. Meanwhile, Olimpija made 11 of 14 free throws, as Stelmahers and Petrov canned 4 apiece, enough to power the hosts to a key 87-68 win, which keeps them alive in the competition.
Thursday, February 5, 2004
Ziga Bojc, Ljubljana