Skipper Bologna is still alive in the Group C race for the Top 16 after turning back an aggressive visitor in Pau-Orthez by 83-75 on Thursday. Skipper has now tied Pau for fourth place in the group at 7-6, the two of them a single victory behind CSKA Moscow and one ahead of Krka Novo Mesto. Skipper visits CSKA in next week's final game of the regular season while Pau hosts Krka. Its new players certainly helped Thursday, but Skipper relied on veterans to overcome a game-long fight in which it trailed consistently, if only by a few points. Gregor Fucka finished with 20 points for the leaders, Gianluca Basile 18 and Zoran Savic 14. For Pau, Dragan Lukovski nailed 20, Mikael Pietrus 13 and Roger Esteller 10.
Pau took the first good lead of the game at 6-11 with Lukovski playing the pick-and-roll that led to a triple by Esteller. Skipper made two steals and found points resulting from double teams against Fucka, who was able to keep the defense guessing by passing out once and turning to beat Florent Pietrus one-on-one the next time. Andrea Meneghin actually tied it up from the line for Skipper at 13-13 before Pau went inside to reestablish the lead at 13-19. Pau kept the lead until the end of the quarter, despite a first Skipper triple by Meneghin that pulled the hosts within 20-22. Then Rod Sellers, with three seconds left, got a basket back for Pau to lead 20-24 after 10 minutes.
Bergeaud rested Lukovski, but Esteller dropped a three to keep Pau going at the start of the second quarter. Skipper answered from the corners with twin three-pointers by Gianluca Basile and Davor Marcelic in an 8-2 run that made it 28-29. Skipper would finally take the lead at 37-34 by taking advantage of offensive boards despite Pau's switching to a zone defense. However, the hosts then missed two fastbreak opportunities allowing Pau to retake the lead of the game. Sellers' two free throws and Lukovski's basket at the buzzer put Pau ahead 37-38 at the half.
Skipper started taking back the lead after the break thanks to Fucka, but just 3 minutes in, Meneghin was ejected after being called for his fourth personal foul and a technical. Lukovski converted four free throws to put Pau ahead again. Then the tension rose, Skipper depended on Fucka in the low post, and then Savic reeled off seven points including a three that took Skipper to within two points from Pau (55-57) with three minutes still to be played. Basile and Marcelic scored one free throw each, and they finally captured the lead came thanks to Savic's basket at 59-57. Mikael Pietrus tied the game as Pau switched to a zone once again but Basile missed the three. Skipper's defense was awful against Lukovski's one on one, and Dragan found four points that gave Pau the lead 59-63. But Kovacic executed a great dunk at the buzzer, and Skipper was only down two points going into the last quarter, 61-63.
Skipper opened with a three-pointer by Savic, 64-63, but suddenly Mikael Pietrus made a great turn-around jumper to put Pau back in the lead. Skipper made a mini 4-point run thanks to Basile's three and Kovacic's hook. Pau stuck with the zone and Basile penetrated it three times and gave Skipper a six-point lead. Robinson scored a lay up after Pietrus' mistake from the perimeter, and Fucka dunked at 81-73 which sealed the win.
Thursday, February 7, 2002