Lottomatica Roma enjoyed its Euroleague comeback with a tight 65-60 win in Group B over Partizan Belgrade on Wednesday in the Italian capital. Roma, whose last Euroleague appearance was three season ago, locked up the game in the fourth quarter when its defense limited the guests to just 8 points in first 7 minutes while day-old signing Ognjen Askrabic scored all of his 8 points. wo-time MVP Dejan Bodiroga made his Euroleague return with 14 points. David Hawkins added 12 for the winners, while Jacopo Giachetti and Alex Righetti had 10 each. Predrag Drobnjak was the leading scorer for Partizan with 17 points, while Vonteggo Cummings scored 14. In a low-scoring game, the steals-to-turnovers ratio made the difference as the guests ended up turning over 24 to just 13 for Roma.
Hawkins hurt Partizan's zone defense with a game-opening three-pointer to put Lottomatica back on a Euroleague scoreboard in style. Drobnjak was the first of the guests to react as he scored a basket-plus-free throw and added a fastbreak layup to push Partizan ahead 3-5. Roma now had difficulties in attacking the zone and head coach Jasmin Repesa had to call a timeout, which Bodiroga exploited by scoring a layup-with-free throw and a jumper to give Roma an 8-7 lead. Defensive plays helped the hosts to grab rebounds and run the court as Vlado Ilievski scored a transition basket and Bodiroga finished a fastbreak to make it 12-7. Another corner jumper against the zone, this time by Ilievski, pushed Roma up by 14-7, but Dusan Kecman and Nikola Pekovic broke a four-minute Partizan drought with 4 straight points. Another fastbreak by Ilievski was answered by free throws from Milenko Tepic, but Roma still controlled the scoreboard, 17-12 after 10 minutes.
To start the second quarter, Cummings tried to change the tempo of the game, driving Partizan on a 0-6 run capped by a three-pointer from Luka Bogdanovic. After a Hawkins layup, Partizan couldn't take advantage of an unsportsmanlike foul but, following a Roma turnover, Kosta Perovic hit with a smooth touch to tie the game at 21-21. Alex Righetti's bombing was a problem for the Partizan defense, which switched to zone again. Roma missed consecutive long jumpers and Drobnjak made the hosts pay with a fastbreak and a three-pointer that gave Partizan the lead back, 25-26. After another missed triple by the hosts, Drobnjak dunked on the break before Luca Garri fed Bodiroga for an easy layup to tie 28-28. Roma, however, did the right things in last minute as Giachetti and Hawkins scored free throws off Partizan turnovers – 16 in the half – to lock in a four-point lead at the halftime, 32-28.
Righetti scored back-to-back triples among 8 consecutive points of his own to open the third quarter, but Cummings and Bogdanovic replied with big shots as well to make it 40-34. A pull-up shot by Cummings and free throws by Drobnjak brought Partizan closer, 42-38, although Jerome Moiso was dominating in the paint for Roma. However, a turnaround jumper by Drobnjak and a big three-pointer by Cummings capped a 1-10 run that put the visitors in front, 43-44. Roma reacted with a 7-0 blast inspired by a Garri three-pointer and capped by a Bodiroga jumper that sent the hosts up by 6 points, 50-44. Nikola Pekovic cut the difference to 50-46, but Bodiroga added a late free throw to set a 51-46 Roma lead after 30 minutes.
Both teams struggled to score early in the last quarter, Partizan only doing so when Pekovic hit free throws to make it 50-48. Roma newcomer Ognjen Askrabic, however, ran the court like a guard and finished a fastbreak by drawing a foul for a three-point play that made it 54-48. Askrabic wasn't finished. He took Roma by the hand as he scored another jumper and added free throws to push his new team to the maximum lead of the night, 58-48. A layup by Perovic and a three-pointer by Kecman cut the different to 6 again, at 59-53, but Tripkovic and Drobnjak missed consecutive triples as the comeback try stalled. A layup and free throws by Giachetti sent Roma up by 63-55 with a minute left to play, when Cummings tried to contain the difference scoring a basket-plus-free throw. Giachetti, however, scored late foul shots and sealed a 65-60 opening win for Roma.