Ulker of Istanbul has handed previously unbeaten Union Olimpija of Ljubljana its first loss of the season tonight with a tactic that can be described in one word: zone. Down by 10 in the second quarter, Ulker put on a zone defense that never had to change as they took over for a 75-63 win that tied the teams at 3-1 in Group B. Quadre Lollis led the winners with 18 points while Kerem Gonlum came off the bench for 10 more. Haris Mujezinovic had 16 to lead Olimpija, with Jiri Welsch, Beno Udrich and Tunji Awojobi scoring 9 each. Points were hard to come by for the visitors, however. Olimpija froze before the Ulker zone and managed to score just 19 points in the whole second half.
The game, played before 3,000 spectators in Ahmet Comert Sports Hall, was a very defensive one for most of the starting minutes. Each team paid most of their attention to stopping the other, and Ulker was better at doing so than Union Olimpija to start. Miljan Goljovic scored an inside basket for an 8-1 Ulker lead, but Olimpija immediately answered with Haris Mujezinovic, Zdovc and Tunji Awojobi all getting to the basket to equal the score at 11-11 after 6 minutes. Olimpija continued getting the better of things until finally taking a 15-16 lead on a Mujezinovic basket. Stipe Modric followed with on of his own to set the score at 15-18 for the visitors after 10 minutes. The second quarter saw the Slovenian champions fastbreaking as the result of errors forced on Ulker at the other end. Easy, quick points helped Olimpija take control as a Sandro Nicevic bucket inside sparked a 12-6 run that Jiri Welsch finished with his team holding a 10-point lead, 28-38. Now it was the home team's responsibility to react, and Ulker did just that, with an 11-6 run to close the half on a basket by Tutku Acik and just a 5-point deficit, 39-44.
Ulker started the third period with a zone defense that helped the hosts keep up the pressure and reduce Olimpija's lead minute-by-minute. It also helped them hurt Olimpija with its own weapon, fastbreaks. Ulker caught up for a 44-44 tie less than three minutes after halftime on a basket by Quadre Lollis and retook the lead 49-48 two minutes later on a Kerem Gonlum layup. By that time, the mood had changed. Taking rebounds and running, Ulker pushed the lead to 57-50 on a three-pointer by Haluk Yildirim. The hosts would enter the final period ahead 59-54, and staying in the the zone defense. Olimpija attacked this way and that, but without any luck at all, as Gonlum was the star of the last period, making a fastbreak dunk that finished an 8-2 run to start the quarter. Lollis added two baskets in a row and then Goljovic put down another, and the lead was at 75-61. The Euroleague had one less undefeated team and one more strong contender in Ulker, whose only loss so far has been to Kinder Bologna.
Thursday, November 1, 2001