Montepaschi Siena sent a message that echoed all around Group A by thrashing Union Olimpija Ljubljana 80-52 at home on opening night. Montepaschi will likely become the first Group A leader depending on other results tomorrow, while Olimpija needs to bounce back from this loss if it wants to keep its Top 16 chances alive. Rimas Kaukenas led the winners with 22 points. Ksystof Lavrinovic fired in 4-of-6 three-pointers on his way to 21 points, while Terrell McIntyre scored 12 points, dished 7 assists and collected 6 steals for Montepaschi. Marko Milic had 16 points for Olimpija and Jasmin Hukic added 14. Olimpija stayed in the game in the opening quarter, but free throws by Lavrinovic allowed Montepaschi to get a 20-18 edge after 10 minutes. Kaukenas and Lavrinovic combined for 25 points in the second quarter, as Montepaschi boosted its margin to 50-26. Olimpija failed to get back in the game in the second half, as Montepaschi cruised to a well-deserved, massive home win.
Romain Sato opened the scoring with a second-chance basket and Terrell McIntyre added a three-pointer for a 5-0 Montepaschi lead. Olimpija went scoreless for almost two minutes until Ronell Taylor hit free throws. Milic added a jump hook and then matched Ben Eze's easy layup with free throws for a 7-6 Olimpija deficit. Goran Dragic provided a highlight with a smooth driving basket, but Shaun Stonerook answered from downtown to keep Montepaschi ahead, 10-8. Eze scored inside and McIntyre fed Bootsy Thornton for back-to-back baskets to cap a 9-0 run. Taylor stepped up with a three-pointer, Milic added another basket and by the time Dragic found space for an easy layup, Olimpija was within 16-15. Thornton stepped up with a layup, which Hukic erased at the other end. Montepaschi started to power the offensive board with Stonerook and Lavrinovic on court now, but the hosts kept missing shots. Meanwhile, Maurice Bailey made a free throw to tie it at 18-18. More foul shots by Lavrinovic gave Montepaschi a 20-18 edge after 10 minutes.
Montepaschi improved its defense right at the start of the second quarter and found a go-to guy in Kaukenas, who made free throws and then fed Marco Carrareto for a layup. By the time Lavrinovic stepped up with a layup-plus-foul, Montepaschi had scored 9 straight for a 9-point lead. Milic drew a foul and calmly made free throws, but a red hot Lavrinovic answered with a triple from the corner. Miha Zupan fed Milic for a reverse layup and Chris Booker finished a third-chance Olimpija offense with a power layup, but Lavrinovic buried another from downtown for a 33-24 Montepaschi lead. Kaukenas shined with a step-back jumper and back-to-back layups, as Olimpija had trouble finding easy shots now. Meanwhile, Lavrinovic fired in yet another triple and McIntyre capped a 13-0 run that made it a 19-point game. Hukic tried to change things with free throws, but an outstanding Kaukenas answered from downtown and soon added a driving layup to break the game open. Another driving layup by Vlado Ilievski fixed the halftime score at 50-26.
Olimpija needed a quick comeback to get in the game, but Montepaschi kept controlling the game, using long possessions to keep its lead alive. Hukic nailed a three-pointer from the right wing, while Olimpija, now with Mirza Begic at center, kept its opponents scoreless for almost three minutes. Milic stepped up with a tip-in, which Thornton erased with a power layup. Montepaschi continued to commit turnovers, but its defense, led by an impressive Eze, kept the hosts way ahead. McIntyre shined with a driving layup that saw Olimpija call timeout at 54-31. Hukic paced Olimpija with another basket, but McIntyre answered from downtown to keep the hosts way out of trouble. Booker dunked and Hukic added a three-pointer, but it only got Olimpija within 59-38. Montepaschi called timeout, but did not find its offensive rhythm. Meanwhile, Zupan and Booker got Olimpija closer, 59-41, after 30 minutes.
Montepaschi killed all Olimpija hopes of a major comeback early in the fourth quarter, as Lavrinovic and Kaukenas hit from downtown to make it 65-41. Zupan joined the three-point festival, but Lavrinovic kept pushing Montepaschi. Olimpija called timeout, but Ilievski made free throws and McIntyre buried a three-pointer for another game-high lead, 71-44. The outcome was already clear and Montepaschi tried to please its fans with some showtime. Kaukenas hit yet another three-pointer, as Olimpija tried to change things a bit. Dragic and Milic fueled a 0-6 spurt that Hukic capped with a layup, but Montepaschi kept looking for more. Lavrinovic and Milic traded baskets and Kaukenas added another fast-break basket. Everything was said and done, as Montepaschi already proved its value, while Olimpija will have to improve a lot if it wants to go deep in the competition.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007