Pau-Orthez of France served notice that its home court was not for anyone else's taking when it fought its way to a first Group B victory on Wednesday by 77-74 over persistent visitor Cibona VIP of Croatia. The triumph will be remembered as a piece of history by Pau, as it marked only the second time in 13 games against Cibona that the French team has managed to come out the winner. Balance was the key for Pau as Rod Sellers again led the way inside, scoring 15 points and pulling 15 rebounds. He was followed in the scoring list by Florent Pietrus with 13, Kyle Hill with 12 and Dragan Lukovsky with 12 ponts and 7 assists. Hill canned a pair of free throws on an intentional foul with 5 seconds left to finally finish with Cibona. The visitors had the initiative much of the game, but fell short despite 14 points from Marijan Mance, 13 from Matej Mamic and 13 from Tomislav Ruzic. Both teams are now 1-1 and in the middle of the pack in Group A after two weeks of play.
Save for the the first couple minutes, when it led 5-0, Pau found itself consistently down on the scoreboard on its home court. A sudden 0-8 run put Cibona ahead and the visitors used three-pointers to stay in front. Cibona would finish the half having hit 6 of 12 from downtown, while Pau could not connect on any of its four deep shots on its own floor. Barisa Krasic was the main triggerman, with 3 bombs dropped from the perimeter, but Matej Mamic was right behind him with 2. Neither was Cibona's main scorer, however. That distinction belonged to power forward Tomislav Rusiz, whose 13 points provided the scoring balance that kept Pau's defense busy inside and out. The halftime score, 36-41, testified to that balance. Cibona's defense might have been more impressive, however, as it denied Pau any real breaks in the game and that way kept the crowd out of the game.
After the half, Pau started chipping away at the Cibona lead. Sellers and Pietrus did the heavy work inside, and Lukovski had the honor of seizing the lead back for the home fans with a basket and free throw to make it 48-47, Pau's first advantage since the opening minutes. The game would stay close, however, with Pau always a point or two ahead, with a maximum lead of 5 on a Lukovski three that made it 72-67. Cibona got four back before the entering in the final minute where Pau was able to cling to a 75-74 lead. With 5 seconds left, an intentional foul was called against Marijan Mance of Cibona and Hill sank both free throws to ice the game.
Wednesday, October 16, 2002