Krka blew out visiting Caprabo Lleida 94-77 at home in Novo Mesto
On a night when Spanish teams aimed at hegemony in the ULEB Cup, Krka Novo Mesto stood up for the rest of Europe with a sweeping 94-77 victory over visiting Caprabo Lleida to advance to the semifinals. At home in Novo Mesto, Krka needed to make up 5 points from its loss in the first game between the two teams. The Slovenians did not waste time, pulling ahead for good in the first half and having the point margin covered most of the way. Big man Marton Bader and newcomer Dante Mathis led the winners with 15 points each while Marko Maravic added 14, Slavko Duscak 13 and Boris Gnjidic 10. The key stat came on the backboards, where Krka outrebounded Lleida a whopping 34 to 16. Gnjidic had 5 and Maravic 4 of Krka's 17 offensive boards. Lleida got 16 points from Sergio Ramos and 15 each from A.J. Bramlett and Jaume Comas. Krka will move on to play another Spanish team, DKV Joventut, in the semifinals starting March 18.
Krka came out strong in the very first quarter and ran away from Lleida. Bader and Maravic were asserting control inside from the start, but so were Aleksandar Capin and Duscak making the first of Krka's three-pointers from the arc. The lead climbed steadily despite early foul trouble to Jamie Arnold and the absence of team captain Dragisa Drobnjak. The fans were getting behind Krka, whose defense was locking down the visitors such that the first quarter ended with a solid double-digit lead, 24-12, already established.
Krka's dominance persisted, with Mathis climbing off the bench to knock down points, until the locals had roared ahead 34-17. Only then was Lleida able to settle down and try to make a game of it. Comas turned on his speed at the point and was able to rattle Krka's defense and draw fouls. Ramos, too, was getting to the line. Veteran Johnny Rogers came on and drilled a triple. It added up to a 5-15 run that got the Spaniards close again at 39-32. A few turnovers by the guests permitted Krka to take back the momentum, however, by scoring the last 4 points of the half to arrive at the break ahead by 11 points, 43-32.
Krka used that momentum to sentence the outcome of the series at the start of the third quarter. Bader, Duscak and Arnold all had a piece of an 8-2 run that boosted the lead to 51-34. Soon Bader was stepping out for a triple and Krka's highest lead of the game, 67-45. The points just kept pouring in for the home team, 29 in all in that third quarter, and by the end of it, Lleida was behind by 20 still, 72-52. All that was left was for Krka to manage the result, which it did with relative ease over all 10 minutes of the final quarter. Lleida would have had to stop Krka cold, but 22 points by the hosts made the outcome as clear as a bell. Krka was going to the semis because on this night it's long-distance shooting ruled the decision. Krka finished having made 10 of 20 shots from downtown to just 3 of 12 for Lleida, which made all the difference in the Slovenians advancing.
Tuesday, March 4, 2003
Jernej Tisu, Novo Mesto