Skipper Bologna passed its first test of the Top 16 by staying several steps ahead of Union Olimpija all night until it had an 84-76 victory to begin Group E. Skipper's defense ruled the first three quarters, while its scoring was spread evenly around the floor. Gianluca Basile and Milos Vujanic put up 14 points each, Gianmarco Pozzecco and tomas Van den Spiegel 13 each for the winners. Skipper joins Efes, who won on the road at Pau-Orthez, in a tie for first place in Group E. Olimpija got 16 points from Aloysius Anagonye, 12 each from Simon Petrov and Marko Maravic, and 10 from Marino Bazdaric. Olimpija suffered through a cold shooting night, making just 6 of 21 three-pointers, and therefore could not capitalize on a 34-29 rebounding advantage that featured 14 offensive boards.
Vujanic's 7 points, on a triple and two strong drives to the hoop, gave Skipper an 8-2 lead that it would not relinquish any time soon. Marko Maravic drilled a triple for Olimpija, but Basile matched it and Skipper was ahead 11-5. Skipper's ball movement kept the Olimpija defense on edge, but the hosts missed three consecutive attempts from long range and Olimpija capitalized, pulling within 13-9 as Bazdaric and Dzenan Rahimic found the bottom of the net on back-to-back possessions. As both coaches looked to their benches, Olimpija cut further into the lead on baskets by Bazdaric and Vladimer Boisa that made it 15-13. But Vujanic rescued Skipper, following an Erazem Lorbek basket with a triple that boosted Skipper to a 22-16 lead as the quarter ended on a thunderous dunk by Tomas Van den Spiegel.
With two more slams early in the second quarter, Van den Spiegel sent Skipper's lead into double figures for the first time, 26-16. The Belgian center also blocked a shot before taking a seat on the Skipper bench having scored 8 points in 13 minutes. Olimpija missed all five of its shots to start quarter and after A.J. Guyton and Pozzecco combined for a fastbreak score, Olimpija called a timeout with the score 28-17. Olimpija's first field goal came 5 minutes into the quarter when Vladimer Boisa set up Aloysius Anagonye for a a dunk. Anagonye scored twice more from close range , but Guyton and Pozzecco responded with driving baskets to keep Skipper well ahead at 33-24. Olimpija stayed cold from the field, while Vujanic drove for his 12th point and Pozzecco beat the buzzer with a layup that pushed Skipper to its highest lead yet, 40-27.
To start the second half, Boisa canned his first triple after 4 previous misses, but Skipper's shooters heated up, too. Carlos Delfino scored his first points, while Basile and Matjas Smodis both connected from downtown to give Skipper its largest margin yet, 50-34. Bazdaric scored on a drive but Smodis took a feed from Van den Spiegel to put Skipper ahead by 18. Another triple from Basile solidified Skipper's lead but Stelmahers scored 4 straight points to pull Olimpija to within 55-39. Olimpija played the hosts even over several minutes, but Hanno Mottola scored 5 straight points for Skipper to keep the lead comfortable. In the final minute of the third quarter, a Bazdaric triple cut the difference to 13 points, but Vujanic added free throws and Mottola a put-back to retain a 66-49 Skipper edge into fourth quarter.
Skipper was looking for the knockout blow in the opening minutes of the fourth and Pozzecco was the catalyst. He found Stefano Mancinelli for a three-point play then drove to the hoop for a bucket that gave Skipper a 20-point lead, 71-51. Olimipija came back with 5 points from Simon Petrov, but another penetration by Pozzecco resulted in a Van den Spiegel slam. Olimpija then called a time out, after which the guests rallied for consecutive baskets from Anagonye, Pero Dujmovic and Maravic. Moments later Maravic nailed a triple that pulled Olimpija to within 78-68, the closest they had been since the second quarter. Olimpija cut the gap even further thanks to a triple from Petrov but Skipper recovered, making 6 of 6 free throws in the final 2 minutes to win 84-76.
Wednesday, March 3, 2004
Nate Jaffee, Bologna