The Group B of the Euroleague showed all its potential one more time as Montepaschi Siena had to use all its experience on Thursday night to defeat Union Olimpija of Ljubljana at home, 86-79. The hosts were always ahead, but Olimpija managed to come within a point of the lead on two occasions, one of them in the last minutes. Nevertheless, Siena showed its scoring power through Vrbica Stefanov and Roberto Chiacig to pull away for good. The win improves Siena's record to 3-3 in Group B, while Union Olimpija drops to 4-2 and falls from the top spot after Tau (5-1) defeated Zalgiris at home. Chiacig was the best man for Montepaschi with a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds. Alphonso Ford and Cal Bowdler added 15 each and Dusan Vukcevic and Stefanov contributed 13 apiece. For Union Olimpija Marino Bazdaric hit 23, and Roberts Stelmahers added 12.
Montepaschi made the first move with a quick 6-0 run capped by a Stefanov layup that forced Olimpija coach Tomo Mahoric to call a timeout early. The visitors soon got in the game, however, as Vladimir Boisa scored within 2 minutes to cut Montepaschi's lead to 13-9. Stefanov was the key man for Siena in the first quarter, organizing fast transitions and scoring from all ranges for a 5-0 run and an 18-9 lead. Moreover, the Montepaschi defense blocked Olimpija's offense such that the Slovenians didn't find clear options to approach the rival basket, and when they did, there was Robert Chiacig under the rim to make sure the ball didn't go in. Vlatko Ilievski got to the free throw line, however, to pull Olimpija within 21-17 with less than 1 minute to go in the quarter, which ended 23-17 after Alphonso Ford's jumper.
The Italians grew stronger in the second period overwhelming Union Olimpija in the offensive end. When Cal Bowdler hit for the first double-digit lead of the night 29-19, Siena settled there for the minutes to come. The guests tried alternating zone with individual defenses, but the hosts kept their turnover box at only 1 by then. Stipe Modric hit the jumper for 33-25 on one of the isolated plays that kept Olimpija in the game. The lead had increased to 45-32 as Chiacig hit both from the charity line, but the final steps of the half allowed Olimpija to forge a quick 0-6 run to get back into the game in tim efor the second half, 45-38.
Teams were back to the playing floor in a mood for thrilling the fans as the game changed the atmosphere in the third quarter. The plays were faster, but that also brought in some more mistakes, mainly fir Siena's side as another 0-6 run early in the period put Olimpija there again, 47-46. The hosts seemed to solve it though with a couple quick plays to put the game back to where it was. A three by Marino Bazdaric for 51-49 preceeded an unsportsmanslike foul called to Mindaugas Zukauskas that would allow Olimpija get near again at 52-51, but first Dusan Vukcevic and later Stefaqnov, hit for three for 64-57. Olimpija dominated the offensive rebound but didn't take advantage of it when it came to score. After 30 minutes the hosts led 68-59.
The decisive period started with an early burst of Montepaschi for 70-59 as it looked like the hosts would break the game open. But it only looked like as Olimpija forged another one of its reactions to come back in the game one more time started by Boisa. The hosts had increased their turnovers to 16 while Olimpija remained stuck at 10. 4 consecutive points by Roberts Stelmahers left Olimpija again down by 1 only, 72-71 and 4 minutes to go. It looked like the guests didn't want to win the game though, as one more time in the game, they would spoil their reaction again, as Ilievski missed two free throws that could have put Olimpija ahead. The players of the home team though, showed their experience in the minutes to come with a 6-0 tear that would ruin Olimpija's aspirations in the game, 78-71 and 2 minutes to go. Zukauskas finally sealed the win to put Siena ahead for good at 84-74.
Thursday, November 14, 2002