With its very survival on the line, Olympiacos stormed back from 12 points behind with 8 minutes to play and seized a 73-77 road win over Virtus Bologna in Group C on Thursday. The victory gave the Reds a 7-7 record, but Group C was so close, it meant the difference between third place and elimination. Olympiacos was looking at a likely sixth place finish if it lost, but with the entrance of Nikos Boudouros in the final quarter, the game turned around until Maurice Evans could finish it for the Reds from the foul line with 16 seconds left. Virtus wound up fourth at 6-8 by winning the break of a three-way tie with Adecco Asvel and Real Madrid. Evans led the winners with 28 points, while Nenad Markovic added 14 and Ignacio De Miguel 12, including the key tying and go-ahead shots near the end. Virtus got 20 points from Eric Murdock, 15 from Derrick Dial, 14 from Dejan Koturovic and 10 from Alessandro Frosini. Virtus took early leads in the first quarter by taking advantage of rebounds and fastbreaks. Eric and Dial led their team on the run, while Frosini was winning the struggle next to the baskets with De Miguel. After a few balanced minutes, Virtus ran ahead 12-6, and was only interrupted by a three-pointer from Evans for 12-9. Virtus answered that with an 8-0 run to 20-9 as Frosini got involved with the scoring, too. Markovic stopped the slide now for the Reds by coming off the bench for 5 points in a row, which made it 20-14. But Virtus had the answer to a 2-3 zone by Olympiacos in Dial, who pushed the hosts back ahead by 10 points, 24-14. The quarter was closed by a couple of free throws for Olympiacos by Milan Tomic, fouled at the buzzer by German Scarone, but Virtus still had a solid 8 points to defend in the second quarter, 24-16.
Olympiacos got back into the game thanks to Evans and Markovic once again, who led the Greeks to a 3-10 run to within 27-26 to get the second quarter underway. Virtus, meanwhile, wasted some easy fastbreaks and seemed in general to lose intensity as only Dial kept up his usual scoring contribution, but that was enough for the home team to jump ahead again by 31-26. DeMarco Johnson missed a couple of easy baskets in the paint, despite the fould troubles of Matjaz Smodis, and minute by minute Virtus gained back its solid lead to take a 38-29 advantage into the locker rooms at halftime.
As the game rhythm decreased in the second half, Virtus was able to keep ahead comfortably. Olympiacos hung onto three-pointers by Evans, but had little contribution inside the paint. As such, the Virtus lead was boosted to a high of 14 points, 45-31, early in the third quarter thanks to center Dejan Koturovic hitting shots from the post and from midrange. Olympiacos coach Slobodan Subotic, who had switched back to man-to-man defense, tried to find someone on his bench to help, but the person wasn't there who could slow down Dial, who besides scoring again for the hosts was able to give a great rebounding contribution also. The Reds stayed in the game thanks to a couple baskets by Johnson, but a pair of heavy misses by De Miguel and Tomic gave Virtus the chance to retain its margin of 9 points, 52-43, after 30 minutes.
Virtus seemed to be able to put the game away to start the last quarter, digging a 12-point gap to 62-50. But that's when Nikos Boudouris climbed off the bench to start bringing the Reds back. Boudouros nailed the key points in an 8-0 run that made it 62-58. Eric Murdock was able to push the Virtus lead back up to 7 points at 68-61, but then two turnovers by Koturovic gave Olympiacos the possessions needed to come back and reduce the gap. Tomic nailed a three-pointer to cut the deficit to 68-64 and Evans then sank a free throw for 68-65. Murdock was fouled and sank a coule of free throws for 70-65, but Tomic hit another three to draw the Reds within a basket at 70-68. Murdock missed 2 layups now, and at the other end, Markovic was fouled. He made only 1 of 2 free throws, but De Miguel got the offensive rebound and surpassed gave the Reds their first lead, 70-71. Dial now suffered a key turnover and then fouled Tomic. Olympiacos captain missed one free throw, but De Miguel once again stole the rebound, was fouled and boosted his team ahead 70-73. Olympiacos chose for the tactical fouls to deny Virtus any chance at a game-tying three. After Murdock missed one, Evans made both of his, securing both the comeback win and a place for the Reds in the Top 16.
Thursday, February 13, 2003