Barcelona took control of Group E on Thursday with a commanding 77-59 victory over visiting Skipper Bologna. Barcelona improves to 3-1 for the top spot in the group while Skipper falls to 1-3 and will need a miracle to climb out of the basement and into the Final Four. The night belonged to Barcelona from the opening whistle. The closest the game ever got was a 2-2 tie before Barcelona started running. Skipper played sluggishly and failed to score anything more than one field goal in the opening minutes of almost every quarter. The game was over by the first half as Barcelona cruised over the final 20 minutes and Skipper did everything in the power not to lose by 20. At least they succeeded in doing that. Efthimios Rentzias had the game-high for the victors with a double-double of 20 points and 10 boards, followed by Alain Digbeu who had a stellar game with 14 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Greg Fucka led Skipper with 15 points and 8 rebounds while Zoran Savic added 13 and Emilio Kovacic added 10.
In the matchup between the two top teams in their respective leagues, intensity was expected from both sides, however in the first half, Skipper seemed not to have realized that the game had started. Barcelona on the other hand, not only showed up for the game, but played very well. After a 2-2 tie in the 2nd minute, the rest of the half was all Barcelona. They led 10-2 after three minutes with Dueñas and Jasikievicius each contributing a pair of buckets, and then Efthimios Rentzias took over. He scored the next nine points for his team in less than three minutes and Barcelona led by double-digits after two consecutive threes from Savic to keep Skipper hanging in the game by a thin thread. Digbeu and Okulaja ended the quarter's scoring for Barcelona as they took a 25-16 advantage after one. Savic was the only bright spot for Skipper with 8 points while Rentzias led the home team with 9.
Skipper instead of regrouping at the break, came out even more sluggish to start the second, whereas the Spaniards came out ready to run. Anderson Varejao set the tone for the period with a monster block on Anthony Goldwire on Skipper's first position down the court, followed by a Digbeu steal which Nacho Rodriguez converted for an easy two. The visitors failed to score over the next four minutes, but it was not for lack of trying. Nothing seemed to fall for Skipper as Barcelona played well on defense forcing their opponents into low-percentage shots. At the other end, Barcelona was consistent and in sync on offense. After 13 minutes, Barcelona was shooting 92% from the field on 12 of 13 while Skipper just 27% on 4 of 15. Kovacic finally got Skipper on the board in minute 14 converting one of two free throws but not before it was 31-17. Giacomo Galanda was the only one having luck on offense for Bologna scoring five of their final six points in the half. The home team gave their crowd plenty to cheer about as Varejao, Dueñas, and Jasikevicius all contributed to the blowout period in which Barcelona took a 41-23 lead at the half.
The rest between the halves didn't seem to benefit Skipper either as they managed only one free throw in the opening three and a half minutes while Barcelona extended their lead to 47-24. Savic finally got Skipper rolling with an easy back door pick and roll. With a 20-point lead at 49-29 and everything going their way, the home team gave something extra to the crowd with a highlight reel alley oop from Rodriguez to Digbeu which brought the fans to their feet. They quickly sat back down however as Skipper mounted a mini-rally with a 2-10 run led by Fucka and Milic to cut the lead to just 53-39 and a chance to get back in the game. But an important bucket from Karnisovas and two free throws in the closing seconds helped Barcelona regain its halftime lead of 18, as they headed into the final period up 57-39.
Barcelona gained their biggest lead in the final period as Skipper once again went over three minutes without scoring a basket to start the quarter. Okulaja came to life in the early going for Barcelona making things happen at both ends of the court. Rentizias also contributed as the two of them scored Barcelona's first eight points and gave them a 28-point lead at 67-39. Gianluca Basile finally broke the drought for Skipper with a three, and once again Skipper mounted a slight comeback. Behind Fucka and Milic, Bologna went on a 1-11 run over the next three minutes but it only cut the lead to 68-50 and their defense was still the problem. In the 36th minute, Juan Carlos Navarro entered the game for Barcelona and immediately made his presence felt with a three that stopped Skipper from getting any closer. Claudio Pilutti matched Navarro's three with one of his own and brought the lead back to 18 which seemed to be the standard for the game as Barcelona held on to that margin for the remainder of the match.
Thursday, March 28, 2002